Recycling solutions

We invest in our multi-metal recycling and, in this way, contribute to a circular economy and thus to the conservation of natural resources beyond our key expertise in copper recycling.

In addition to the processing of copper concentrates, the recycling of copper scrap, copper alloy scrap, and other secondary raw materials is a key business area at Aurubis. Copper is a metal that can be recycled as often as desired without a loss of quality. This means that copper of the highest purity can be produced from recycling materials again and again. Furthermore, copper is one of the base metals used to recover or extract a number of other accompanying elements such as gold, silver, nickel, tin, lead, or zinc.

Among the secondary raw materials we process are complex materials from end-of-life products. These come from sources such as electronic devices, vehicles, and other items used daily and consist of material combinations that include plastics, ceramic, or glass. Separating them into material and product streams by type in order to reuse them is a significant challenge. We utilize highly developed mechanical, physical, and metallurgical separating and refining processes in different combinations for this purpose as part of our multi-metal recycling.

Our Commercial division is responsible for sourcing recycling materials for the Group. This is divided into the areas Recycling Raw Materials (which handles the material supply for the smelters), Marketing Cathodes (which supplies the production facilities with cathodes and “direct melt” raw materials), and Product Sales & Marketing with the function Customer Scrap Solutions.

This organization aligns with our recycling approach: we use secondary materials from production and from end-of-life products as raw materials. Especially in the marketing of our products and in our customer relationships, we include the return of the metals in our thinking. We provide individualized solutions for taking back recycling materials that accumulate in the processing of our copper products as well as other metals in the different value-added stages that take place with our product customers and their customers. Depending on the value-added stage, materials are accumulated with very high copper contents, such as Millberry scrap, which can be immediately directed to the copper production process, or more complex or alloyed recycling raw materials that can also be smelted, such as copper- and precious metal-bearing stamping waste, alloy scrap, slags from foundries, and other industrial residues like used catalysts and galvanic slimes.

As part of our “closing-the-loop” activities, we build up partnerships through which we not only sell our products but also take back recycling raw materials customers accumulate, in addition to other service offerings.

Aurubis processes recycling materials at different sites. The managers of these sites report to the chief operating officer. Smaller subsidiaries such as CABLO, Elektro-Recycling Nord (E. R. N.) and RETORTE report to the management of the Recycling Raw Materials and/or Precious & Minor Metals departments in the Commercial division.

Our sites in Lünen (Germany) and Olen (Belgium) specialize in processing recycling raw materials, which are the primary feedstock at our largest recycling plant, the Aurubis recycling center in Lünen.

The plant in Lünen was certified by TÜV Nord in accordance with the WEEE End Processor Standard in 2015 (WEEE = Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment). This is a voluntary standard for the processing of WEEE materials containing copper and precious metals, such as circuit boards. We helped develop the standard and thus support the installation of organized recycling and disposal processes through compulsory standards. Since December 2018, the plant has been certified through WEEELABEX in accordance with the related European series of standards EN 50625.

Moreover, we have two companies with unique recycling expertise within the Group: our subsidiary CABLO specializes in recycling cable production waste and end-of-life cable scrap, while E. R. N. focuses on recycling electrical appliances and electronic devices of all kinds.

The Hamburg and Pirdop sites also process recycling raw materials to produce cathode copper and precious metals. Though the primary smelters utilize copper concentrates as their main feed material, they also use copper scrap to a certain extent because it is ideal for process cooling and therefore enables particularly energy-efficient processing.

We and 22 national and international partners are participating in the European research project FORCE – Cities Cooperating for Circular Economy. The project’s goal is to develop new concepts to avoid and treat waste, specifically when it comes to the material streams related to plastic, biomass, end-of-life electrical appliances, and wood. As a multi-metal recycler, Aurubis supports the project with its expertise for the purpose of improving the recycling of strategic metals (e.g., copper and gold) through the best possible collection and dismantling system for waste electrical and electronic equipment.

Key measures of the Sustainability Strategy 2018–2023 and their status in fiscal year 2018/19

  • Increasing the volume of complex recycling materials sourced
    Raw material sourcing and processing are changing due to the rising complexity of the raw materials; we consider this fact both a challenge and an opportunity and address it with our own preparation techniques and collaboration with partners who operate their own processes to enrich metals in raw materials.
  • Establishing and developing “closing-the-loop” systems as a result of new or intensified cooperation with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), retailers, or copper product customers
    We integrated this target in our strategic approach in the Product Sales & Marketing department in the past fiscal year. Interview with Gröner/Kirsten/TKH.