When you recycle copper, you are telling the world that you want that copper to be re-used in some other way or for a completely new and different application. Copper that has outlived its usefulness is stripped from discarded and unused items so that it can be processed into a usable state once again.
The first time copper was used for anything was shortly after the Stone Age. It is still widely used to this day for various items and activities. Copper has been recycled since its first use, being broken down and repurposed for something else in one way or another.
Before modern times, copper was considered extremely precious because of the amount of heat and skill it took to smelt it. Recycling copper has always been preferable to finding and mining from new sources.
Copper recycling as we know it today started with the industrial revolution. Today, copper is easier to recycle and repurpose than ever before thanks to advances in heating technology.