The Copper Balance of Cities
Material management faces a dual challenge: on the one hand satisfying large and increasing demands for goods and on the other hand accommodating wastes and emissions in sinks. Hence, the characterization of material flows and stocks is relevant for both improving resource efficiency and environmental protection. This article focuses on the urban scale, a dimension rarely investigated in past metal flow studies. We compare the copper (Cu) metabolism of two cities in different economic states, namely, Vienna (Europe) and Taipei (Asia). Substance flow analysis is used to calculate urban Cu balances in a comprehensive and transparent form. The main difference between Cu in the two cities appears to be the stock: Vienna seems close to saturation with 180 kilograms per capita (kg/cap) and a growth rate of 2% per year. In contrast, the Taipei stock of 30 kg/cap grows rapidly by 26% per year. Even though most Cu is recycled in both cities, bottom ash from municipal solid waste incineration represents an unused Cu potential accounting for 1% to 5% of annual demand. Nonpoint emissions are predominant; up to 50% of the loadings into the sewer system are from nonpoint sources. The results of this research are instrumental for the design of the Cu metabolism in each city. The outcomes serve as a base for identification and recovery of recyclables as well as for directing nonrecyclables to appropriate sinks, avoiding sensitive environmental pathways. The methodology applied is well suited for city benchmarking if sufficient data are available.