4 Steps To Scrapping Metal: The Cold, Hard Truth

Posted on: 20 January 2015

Recycling is on the rise. In an effort to decrease their carbon footprint, millions of people around the world are sending paper, glass, plastic, and aluminum to the recycler. But in many cases, they are overlooking another opportunity to reduce and reuse--recycling scrap metal. 

Metal Scrap Recylcing

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the nation's metal scrap recycling industry processes more than 60 million tons of scrap metal each year. That's 60 million tons of metal being kept out of landfills and other waste collection areas.

While much of the metal being recycled at scrap yards comes from customers in the trade industry who deal with metal regularly, individuals are also encouraged to add to the green movement and recycle their own scrap metal. However, with a few steps, it's easy to recycle:

1. Before you do any unnecessary work, call your local scrap yard to see what metals they can accept. Some yards only accept nonferrous, while other only accept ferrous, and still others can process both. Finding out beforehand can save you time, energy, and money.

While on the phone, ask them about their procedures, as well: What are their hours? Do they want the metal presorted? What are their rates for different metals?

2. Almost all scrap metal yards require metal to be separated into ferrous and nonferrous before they will accept it. And doing so often translates to a much better payout for you in the end.

You can easily determine if a metal is ferrous or nonferrous by using a magnet. A magnet will stick to ferrous metals, which are common metals, most likely steel or iron. These metals are very common but not very valuable. The magnet won't stick to nonferrous metals, which include aluminum, brass, bronze, and copper. These metals are worth much more.

3. Sort again. Are you seeing a pattern? The more you pre-sort your scrap metal, the more likely it is the scrap yard will pay you well for your metal. Separate out the different metals in the ferrous and nonferrous piles.

Copper is one of the most valuable metals to recycle. It is commonly found in plumbing pipes, roof gutters, and electrical wires. Brass is less valuable, but still worth something and can be found in light fixtures, doorknobs, and some plumbing fixtures.

Aluminum and steel are still less valuable. Aluminum is most recognizable in can-form, but it is also used for gutters, siding, and window frames, while steel can be found in your car, cabinets, and even furniture.

4. Once all your metal is sorted, take some time to clean it. Remove any rust, dirt, mud, or other contaminants from the metal. Try to separate any mixed metals--for instance, a brass doorknob with steel parts in it. Likewise, strip any plastic off of electrical wires, etc. Scrap yards will pay much more for completely clean metal. Determine how much time cleaning will take and compare it to the price the recycled metal will bring and decide if it is worth it.

To learn more, contact a company like American Northwest Recycling with any recycling questions you have.


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