JOM
, Volume 54, Issue 10, pp 21-26

Where has all the copper gone: The stocks and flows project, part 1

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Abstract

The quantitative assessment of stocks and flows of materials throughout the technological cycle, from resource extraction to final disposal, can inform resource policy, environmental science, and waste management. This paper describes the technological cycle of copper based on work by the Stocks and Flows Project of the Yale Center for Industrial Ecology. Of copper produced in the 20th century, as much as 85% remains in use today. The recycling rate, while high, leaves nearly as much in waste destined for disposal (e.g., over 40% in the United States). The copper in production wastes currently approaches the quantity in post-consumer wastes, but the latter will dwarf the former over time as large in-use stocks reach end of life.