India has globally emerged with one of the highest recycling rates for copper due to high collection efficiency and minimal loss during resmelting, a study by the International Copper Association India (ICA India) through a “stock and flow model” has revealed.

“India boasts one of the highest recycling rates (proportion of end-of-life copper scrap that gets recycled and reintroduced into the system) globally, ranging from an impressive 95.1 per cent to 99.4 per cent. This can be attributed to the high collection efficiency of discarded copper, the recognition of copper’s high value across the entire value chain, and minimal copper loss during the remelting process,” said ICA-India in a statement.

Strategic tie-up

Mayur Karmarkar, Managing Director, ICA India, said in the statement that the association in a strategic collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute, Germany, has launched “India’s Copper Stock and Flow Model”. “This pioneering initiative aims to unravel the complexities of India’s copper landscape, covering mining, production, end-of-life scrap generation, and recycling,” he said. 

Traditionally, copper recycling data has been a realm of uncertainty, often relying on guesstimates that fall short of providing a comprehensive understanding of market dynamics. On the other hand, the copper stock and flow model is a scientific estimate that uses a rigorous and data-driven methodology, in turn driving away ambiguity surrounding data pertaining to copper’s life cycle, Karmarkar said. 

ICA India has come up with a comprehensive “copper stock and flow model” for the financial year 2021. It has been developed using a meticulous top-down and bottom-up approach. 

“Rooted in historical data on copper consumption dating back to 1910, this innovative model integrates information on semi-finished goods production and end-use sectors, offering a panoramic view of copper dynamics,” the statement said. 

Meeting over 50% demand

The study revealed that secondary copper, derived from the recycling of scrap both domestic and imported including finished products, currently fulfills over 50 per cent of India’s copper needs. 

“This is critical information for policymakers and the industry as estimating the value of secondary copper has been a challenge. This model also underscores the importance of data collection and recycling in the nation’s copper supply chain,” it said. 

Karmarkar said: “The stock and flow model not only enhances the accuracy of copper recycling data but also carries profound implications for policymakers. This will help the policymakers gain invaluable insights and develop data driven copper resource strategy. 

“The model’s scientific foundation enables a deeper comprehension of the copper market, facilitating the crafting of policies that are not only effective but also tailored to the nuances of the supply chain.” 

The model addresses a critical gap in comprehending India’s recycling landscape, including active copper stock, end-of-life scrap generation, and recycling and collection rates. 

Adding 1.1 mt to stocks

The statement said the model’s revelations for India are striking as it highlights that India boasts an active copper stock of 15 million tonnes (mt) across applications like buildings, infrastructure, industry, consumer appliances, machinery, and computers. 

In 2020-21 alone, 1.1 mt were added to this dynamic stock. The model’s capability to estimate end-of-life (EOL) scrap generation is of particular significance. EOL estimates are based on historical data and industry insights indicating the pace at which each product reaches retirement and transforms into potential scrap. 

Using this methodology, the India “copper stock and flow model discerns that a noteworthy 380,000 tonnes of copper, sourced from discarded or end-of-life products, became available for recycling in 2020-21”. 

Copper, recognised as a critical mineral, is at the forefront of India’s strategic focus to develop sustainable exploration, processing, recycling and thereby, to attain an “Atma nirbhar” (self-sufficiency) growth.