Demand for sustainable metals

The demand for sustainable manufacturing is rapidly increasing, particularly with most structural alloys.

In fact, accelerated demands for growth are set to increase by rates of up to 200% by the year 2050.

Industries such as, but not limited to, defence, infrastructure, energy, transportation and medicine are responsible for the aforementioned demand – which is pushing metallurgists to revolutionise how they extract and manufacture the required materials in a more sustainable way.

As a member of the UN Global Compact, Copper Alloys commits to the corporate sustainability principles set by the international initiative.

This means operating in ways that meet fundamental responsibilities in areas such as human rights, labour, environment etc. while adhering to a code of ethics.

Fulfilling its social responsibility is a fundamental commitment for Copper Alloys. Indeed, we try to lead an Eco-Attitude and thus provide eco-friendly solutions to our clients and employees by raising their awareness.

Helping to make the world a better place for future generations…

1. Recycle More

The average component loses 60% of its weight by the time it is finish machined.

As Copper Alloys makes the metal and also machines the component, it can close the loop and recycle swarf and scrap generated in the machining process.

Careful control and segregation over the machining swarf and scrap enables us to directly recycle.

Without this diligence, additional energy-intensive stages such as refining (remelting and separating the constituent elements of the mixed metals) have to be employed.

The importance of segregation is underestimated by machinists who often see the waste as a necessary by-product.

2. Components designed to last longer

Consider submarines in the UK, for example… modern boats are expected to last for 50 years.

Certain components in contact with seawater are then replaced every five years purely because the metal they are made from is unable to withstand the corrosive environment. Some quick arithmetic will tell you that these parts are replaced up to 10-times over the lifetime of a boat. Unfortunately, there are many thousands of such parts on each boat.

In February 2019 after over two decades of development, the Ministry of Defence released an alloy called Def Stan 02-886, which is the Defence Standard for a material that is specifically designed to replace the existing metals and also last the lifetime of the boat. This material also has the added benefit that it is five-times tougher than the existing metal. He’s an example to illustrate what this means to the UK Government, the Royal Navy, Industry and the British Taxpayer:

Case Study – example of the mutual benefit of converting equipment from Def Stan 02-833 to CNC-1 for a typical seawater component

No. parts/boat
Lifespan (yrs) 
Life of boat (yrs) 
No parts/boat/life 
Selling price ea 
Thru-life part cost to Navy 
Industry Profit each 
Manufacturing stages over 50 years  
Def Stan 02-833 Valve 10 5 50 100 £24,000 £2,400,000 £3,500 £350,000 56
Def Stan 02-886 Valve 10 50 50 10 £69,000 £690,000 £40,000 £400,000 6


  • Navy will pay more per item, but much less over the lifetime of a boat
  • Costs to the Navy of maintaining, inspecting, and replacing are NAB not included
  • Cost of CNC-1 is comparable to Def Stan 02-833, the difference in selling price is designed to maintain total thru-life profit
  • Profit that would typically take 50 years to realise is captured up-front

The benefits of utilising better metals are manifold in that the many unseen costs of maintenance, down-time and administration but most of all they reduce the environmental burden which often isn’t reflected in the monetary cost of the metal. Considering the energy-intensive nature of what it takes to produce some of these components, it’s difficult to understand the environmental cost.

Reducing carbon with better metals

From exploration, mining, smelting, refining, alloying, to casting, forging, cutting, testing, machining and transportation, practically every stage requires significant energy and resource.

This should be an increasingly significant consideration in the design for any equipment, especially publicly funded applications where the Government agencies involved have an obligation to take the moral high ground over corporate profits.

Make a difference, leave the world a better place, speak to one of our metallurgists to see whether there is a better metal for you.


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