Copper Wire Fact File

By AWD Digital

This week we look at where you can find copper wire, and the different grades of copper scrap accepted by recyclers.

What is it?

With the highest electrical conductivity rating of all non-precious metals (silver is the only other metal with higher conductivity), copper has been the first choice for electrical wiring since the invention of the telegraph and electromagnet in the 1820s. Other qualities that make copper an ideal material to use in electrical wiring include it’s high tensile strength and ductility, excellent creep characteristics, corrosion resistance, a low coefficient of thermal expansion, high thermal conductivity, solderability and ease with which it can be installed.

What is it used for?

Copper wire has a wide range of uses including:

  • Magnet wire (winding wire): used for windings in electric motors, inductors, generators, headphones, loudspeakers coiled, electromagnet, hard drive head positioners and transformers.
  • Automotive conductors
  • Appliance conductors
  • Power cables for indoor and outdoor buildings, underground transmission lines operating at extra high voltages and for low voltage lines in mines, underwater, railroads, hoists etc.
  • Structured wiring: telephone wiring, entertainment systems, security, control, data transmission (computers), television, wireless systems.
  • Twisted pair cable wiring for data networks
  • Coaxial cables for LAN, computer network connections, CATV and video distribution, microwave transmission and radio transmitters.
  • Electrical wiring for mobile homes, residences, commercial and industrial buildings, recreational vehicles, substations and boats.

Are there different grades of it?

The scrap metal industry divides copper scrap into four different grades and priced accordingly. The highest grade is bare, bright copper which is copper wire and cable which is bare, uncoated, unalloyed, not smaller than 16 gauge, and free of tarnish. The second highest grade of copper is clean, copper bus bars, wire no thinner than the head of a pencil, copper tubing, clippings, punchings, and commutator segments with the ends cut off. Small amounts of oxidation are acceptable at this grade. The third most valuable grade of copper unalloyed pipe, wire, copper ends and other solids that have some type of coating but need to have a nominal copper content of 96%. Wire still needs to be bare and thinner than the head of a pencil and minor oxidation is permitted. The lowest grade is insulated copper which is unalloyed copper wire which is insulated.


Metal Men Recycling are established scrap metal buyers based in Pakenham. We take all grades of copper wire and ensure our clients receive a fair price every time. To learn more about our capabilities, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 03 5941 6677.

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Find us at: 18 Drovers Place, Pakenham VIC 3810