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The Basics of Recycling Scrap Metal for Money

Written by Virginia Buechel, iScrap App

Recycling and reusing items like plastic bottles, hand-me-down clothing and newspapers is important to make part of one's every day routine to help increase the green movement. One section of the recycling industry that may not be as popular, but just as important, is scrap metal recycling. Scrap metal exports are one of the largest in the US and by recycling metals, we reduce the amount of ore drilling throughout the world.

Some of these metals include copper, steel, aluminum, brass, iron and wires, but they are often tossed in the garbage due to the lack of knowledge and sources for metal recycling. We're here to help educate the community to keep an eye out for those opportunities to grab some metal and bring it to the right place.

Recycling Scrap Metal Makes Money

What many people don't know is that most scrap metal can be recycled for cash payments at local scrap yards around the country, thus adding to the green movement.

Scrap metal yards deal with customers that are in the trade industry that come across metal on a daily basis. Many could be construction companies that may have tons of steel beams from structures, electricians that could have wires and electrical equipment or plumbers that have copper piping and brass fixtures. While scrap yards see a large quantity of these metals from the trade industry, homeowners are always welcomed and encouraged to bring their own metal scrap to make money and recycle the metals at the right place.

A Magnet Assesses Metal Value

Determining if you have a ferrous or non-ferrous metal and separating it is the first important step before bringing it to be recycled. The easiest and most common way to figure out what kind of metal you have is by grabbing a magnet.

Hint: If you don't have a handheld magnet handy, any magnet will do – even one from your fridge.

If the magnet sticks to your metal: You have a ferrous metal in your hands, something common like steel or iron. Ferrous metal is not worth very much when you bring it to the scrap yard, but the scrap yard will still accept it and make sure it is recycled properly.

If the magnet does not stick to your metal: The metal you have is a non-ferrous metal. Many common metals, like copper, aluminum, brass, stainless steel and bronze are categorized as non-ferrous metals. These metals are very valuable to recycle and are worth more money at the scrap yard.

Once you have your metals separated, give your local scrap yard a call to see what metals they accept and get insight on their procedures so you know before you go.

Often times, homeowners feel intimidated going to a scrap yard, but making sure you have your metals separated the best of your ability is the step in the right direction. Some scrap yards will require you to pull up to their doors and unload your metal onto their scale, where other yards will take it out themselves.

It Helps to Know Your Metals

The most challenging part of metal recycling is recognizing what material you are looking at and what it is worth. Know these basic metals and it gets a whole lot easier:


Copper – $$$$

Copper is a reddish color if it is in good condition, and if it is a bit worn it can have a darker brown color with some green rusted areas.



Copper is a common material in the structure of homes. It can be found in your home as plumbing pipes, roofing materials like gutters, within the inside of air conditioners and common electric wires.

Copper can also be found in electrical wires and underneath that black or colored plastic insulation is bright colored copper wire.

Copper is one of the most valuable metals to recycle, so collecting it and keeping the different kinds separate can earn you some "pat-on-the-back" money for recycling it with you scrap yard.


Aluminum - $

Aluminum is often painted with white paint, but is a whitish, silver color and can easily be bent if it is thin.


Aluminum cans are not the only place you can find this metal. While cans are often collected and brought to the scrap yards in bulk, aluminum can also be found in many places throughout your house.

Often used for gutters, siding, window frames, doors, and more, aluminum is in more places than you can imagine.

While aluminum is not worth a lot of money at the scrap yard, a common piece of aluminum can be recycled and used again within a few months. Recycling aluminum saves 80% of the energy that was used to make it.


Brass - $$

Brass is yellowish with a hint of red in it and is a very heavy metal.


Brass can often be found in hardware like keys, door handles, light fixtures and bathroom fixtures.

Composed of copper and zinc together, brass is used often in plumbing fixtures and also at the end of copper piping. A mid-level priced item at a scrap yard, brass can add up quickly in weight because of how dense it is.


Steel - $

Steel can often rust very easily and a magnet will stick to it.


Steel is one of the most common metals used throughout the world. It can be found in many places, from your car to chairs, shelves, cabinets and more.

While it is not worth much at a scrap yard unless you have thousands of pounds of it, it is still wise to collect it and bring it to be recycled the right way.

(Source: iScrap App.)

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