Giving metals and minerals a second life

Author: | Date: 11/03/2021


Giving metals and minerals a second life: a profile of our recycling activities

Recycling is becoming an increasingly important part of Glencore’s business and reflects our purpose of responsibly sourcing the commodities needed to advance everyday life.

As the world’s population increases and countries continue to develop and industrialise, society will need more metals and minerals. Although we will still need mining to meet global demand, recycling is playing an essential role.

Our recycling activities are carried out both by our dedicated business, Glencore Recycling, and by our commodity businesses, in particular Nickel and Zinc. Through these activities, we give recyclable materials a second life and divert them from landfill, helping minimising the environmental impacts.

Although we still need mining to meet global demand, recycling is playing an essential role


Glencore Recycling is a market leader in the recycling of copper and precious metals, with decades of experience in the industry, recycling more than one million tonnes of scrap electronics since the 1990s. In 2020, we recovered approximately 27kt copper, 132koz gold, 1.3moz silver, 16koz palladium, and 5koz platinum from recyclable input feeds.

This fully integrated business, with facilities in the United States and Canada, sources recyclable materials from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), other end-of-life sources and processors before sampling and determining value. It then smelts and refines the materials, before marketing them directly to our customers.

Its approach is underpinned by three core areas: leading technological expertise, a commitment to customer excellence and embedding sustainability across the business.

Our plants, laboratories and technical capabilities enable us to accurately sample and treat a wide range of complex materials, while through our smelting and refining capabilities we produce London Metal Exchange (LME) grade copper and precious metals.

We work closely and flexibly with customers to understand their requirements, ensuring prompt turnaround times and logistics solutions, and helping them maximise returns.

By working to the electronics industry’s leading responsible recycling standards, and undergoing third party health, safety and environmental management assurance at our facilities, we close the loop between processors, manufacturers and consumers.

Kunal explains how a mobile phone or laptop is recycled: “Through collection and sorting stages, devices end up with an electronics pre-processor or recycler who dismantles them. Then, via automated or manual sorting, parts of the device will end up in three categories – plastics, steel or aluminium, and nonferrous.

This last category, which still has a significant amount of plastic, is sent to Glencore for recycling. At one of our recycling sites, such a feed will go through further processing to homogenise it. The processed electronics feed will be sent to one of our copper smelters, and blended along with copper concentrates to produce copper anodes. The precious metals in the electronics feed will end up in the slimes. Both the anodes and the slimes then go to our copper refinery, and the output of that process is market grade copper cathodes, as well as gold and silver bars.”


In Canada, our Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations (INO) is one of the world’s largest processors of secondary nickel and cobalt bearing materials, including alloy scrap, battery materials, plating residues and spent catalysts. Sudbury INO  has built a solid reputation for recycling, established over 30 years in the areas of receiving, sampling and the effective recovery of metals contained in end-of-life materials. In 2020, we recovered approximately 4.6kt of nickel and 2kt cobalt. The secondary materials processed are then further refined at our Nikkelverk refinery in Norway into finished products with purities amongst the highest in the world.

Our Portovesme lead and zinc smelter in Sardinia, Italy, processes electric arc furnace (EAF) steel dust. EAF dust is a zinc-containing by-product of the steel production process, and our recycling and processing of this material avoids it being sent to landfill. In 2020, we recovered approximately 57kt zinc directly from EAF dust. Glencore smelters recovered a further 103kt zinc from treatment of waelz oxides, which are also derived from steel industry EAF dust residues.

Any lead recovered from this process is also treated on site, together with spent car battery paste, mined lead concentrates and zinc smelter residues to produce refined lead.

To learn more about our recycling activities, visit our section about Recycling