Everything you need to know about cable recycling

Everything you need to know about cable recycling

All about Cable Recycling

Recycling is a key part of efforts to protect the environment and reduce the negative impact of human activity on the planet. Recycling companies such as the RADO Group play an important role in this process, contributing to reducing the consumption of natural resources and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Types of cable


Today, there are very many types of cables on the market that contain valuable raw materials such as copper, aluminium, tin, nickel and plastics such as polyethylene, PVC, rubber.

We distinguish between the following types of cable:


Copper cables

  • Dry telecommunications and energy
  • Telecommunications lead cables
  • Gel-filled for use in telecommunications and power generation
  • Of electrical and electronic equipment
  • Vehicle harness
  • Groundwater with petroleum substances
  • Control equipment used in rail transport and mining
  • Electrical - installation used in the building industry
  • Undersea


Aluminium cables

  • Dry used in construction
  • Installation formerly used in construction
  • Groundwater with petroleum substances
  • Aluminium cable with ACSR steel wire (AFL)


Fibre optic cables

  • Used for data transmission. Does not contain precious metals


In most cases, cable scrap occurs in waste codes 17 04 11; 17 04 10*; 16 03 03*.


Copper and Aluminium Cable Recycling


Due to the content of valuable raw materials in cables, many companies on the market recycle cables. The largest company in Europe which has been recycling cables since 1999 is RADO (www.radogrupa.pl). RADO's agent, on the other hand, is RMC Polska.

Cable recycling involves the recovery of raw materials from disused or used cables, with the aim of both protecting the environment and making efficient use of valuable materials. The process involves several key steps:

  1. Collection and segregation:

The collection of cables is mainly carried out by scrap yards and specialist recycling companies, which collect cable scrap from various sources such as electro-waste, dismantling of electrical installations, decommissioning of telecommunications and power networks and renovation and demolition. The cables are then segregated according to the type of materials they are made of and sent to a recycler.


  1. Insulation removal:

Once the cables have been collected, the recycling process usually starts with the removal of the insulation. Insulations can be made of different materials such as PVC, polyethylene or rubber. Mechanical processes are used to separate the insulation from the cable core.

  1. Shredding:

The cables are then shredded into smaller pieces. Mechanical equipment, such as shredders, can be used to cut cables into smaller pieces, facilitating further recycling processes.

  1. Metal separation:

After shredding, the cables are subjected to metal separation processes. The waste is passed through equipment that takes advantage of differences in weight, density or magneticity of individual metals, such as copper, aluminium or steel, to separate them from each other.


  1. Cleaning of plastics/dust

In order to recover 100% valuable metals from the cables, a cleaning process must be carried out for plastics and dust in which metal particles may be present. For this purpose, induction separators are used, among others.


  1. Purification and processing of raw materials:

The raw materials obtained as a result of the separation, mainly metals, are sold to smelters and foundries while plastics are used as intermediate products for the production of products

Yields (metal recovery)

A key element of cable recycling is the yield of metals (copper and aluminium). This is a key parameter for any company that collects, segregates and resells scrap insulated cables.

Unfortunately, when copper and aluminium cables are recycled, there is sometimes a discrepancy between the copper yield of the cables declared by the raw material suppliers and the actual result of the recycling process. Why does this happen? There are several reasons that may influence the differences between the declared and actual yields.

The first reason is the quality of the copper cables supplied. The copper in cables that goes into the recycling process can come from different sources and have different properties. For example, the raw material may contain admixtures of other metals, such as aluminium, steel, lead, coppered aluminium or even coppered steel wires, which hinder the cable recycling process and reduce the copper yield in the cable. Suppliers often declare a higher copper yield than is achievable with this quality composition of the raw material.

The second factor influencing the differences in copper yields in cables is the recycling process. Recycling of copper cables is a complex and technologically demanding process, which requires a wealth of knowledge and a professional installation to ensure maximum recovery of copper in cables with almost zero loss during the recycling process. As a result, an inappropriate choice of cable treatment process or the technology available to a given recycler can affect the copper yield, even if the cables supplied were of high quality.

Our aim as a recycling company is to guarantee the highest possible copper yield in cables, as declared by the raw material supplier. To achieve this, we use state-of-the-art technology and control the recycling processes in a way that minimises the loss of raw material. In our processes, we take care to clean steel, plastics and dust from the recycling process so that not a single speck of copper or aluminium is lost. We also carry out various tests at the end of the process to ensure that the final result after cable recycling is 99.98% of recovered copper and aluminium from the material supplied.

In summary, the differences between the claimed and actual copper yield of recycled cables are due to various factors, including the quality of the copper cables, the recycling process and the scale and technology used by the recycling company. It is important to choose a trusted copper cable supplier and recycling company that cares about the quality of the process and aims to achieve the highest possible copper yield from the cables. At our company, we do everything we can to deliver the highest quality copper cable recycling to our customers.

You can watch a video on why copper does not come out in cables here: Why copper is missing from recycling cables - YouTube

You can watch a video illustrating cable recycling at RADO here: RADO GRUPA Cable Recycling (youtube.com)