Prices for a major metal found in the electronics recycling stream have climbed high in recent weeks, largely driven by China’s economic recovery following its COVID-19 lockdown.
Copper is currently sitting at about $3.50 per pound, its highest price since early 2013, according to historical COMEX pricing figures.
The pricing dynamic is connected to economic activity in China, where the pandemic lockdown early in 2020 limited demand for a time. Since the country’s lockdown ended, an economic recovery has shifted the global market for certain metals.
Prices for copper and other industrial metals “are particularly sensitive to manufacturing activity in China because the country accounts for roughly half of global demand for copper and other materials,” The Wall Street Journal reported this week. “The faster-than-expected recovery there has sparked a reversal in prices, which had languished in recent years due to trade tensions between the U.S. and China, even before pandemic lockdowns dented demand.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, some analysts predict copper prices will increase close to their 2011 record, when the metal was trading for more than $4.50 per pound.
Copper is a key component of the electronics recycling stream. Industry sources have told E-Scrap News there are roughly 200-400 pounds of copper per ton of printed circuit boards, for example.
George Lucas, vice president of sales and business development at precious metals refiner Gannon & Scott, said the pricing shift has implications for how e-scrap suppliers handle certain material streams.
“Prior to copper’s price increase, customers may have chosen to send a particular recycling stream directly to a smelter or shred it and sell as a commodity,” he told E-Scrap News this week. “That material stream may not have met the minimum dollar value to justify sending it to us. However, with the increase in copper prices as well as the increase in precious metal prices, it now puts a higher value on that material to where it makes sense to send it to us for recovery.”