7 Most Common Types of Metal for Recycling

Metal recycling not only protects the environment, but it may also generate income! The most important issue concerning metal recycling is to know what type your metal is.

There is a variety of metals that can be recycled, i.e. iron, stainless steel, copper, aluminum, etc. Use of a magnet is the easiest and fastest way to pre-classify an unidentified metal. If the magnet attracts the metal, it is ferrous, i.e. iron and steel; if not, it is a non ferrous metal, i.e. copper, aluminum.

Even though their value is lower compared to other types of metals, ferrous metals are primary target materials of all recycling systems. Moreover, scrap yards accept them quite easily, but for very low price. On the contrary, non ferrous metals are much more valuable, especially copper and lead.

Despite this first classification, recycling of non ferrous metals requires further identification. The reason for that is quite simple. First, to be sure that the system you address to recycles this metal. Second, to gain the appropriate price, if any!

Categorization of metal is made using characteristics, such as color, texture, etc.

Metal recycling is probably the oldest form of recycling and it can be quite easy.

Why recycling metals?

  • It is fast and easy

In most cases the only you need to do is to drop off your material to the appropriate bin.

  • Protects the environment

Recycling of an aluminum saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours. Respectively, steel production from iron ore is 60% more energy consuming.

  • Reduces exploitation of resources

Every ton of steel recycled saves 1,000 pounds of coal, 120 pounds of limestone, and 2,500 pounds of iron ore.

The amount of Copper recycled annually in the US is enough to built 25,000 Statues of Liberty.

  • May generate income

The price of an aluminum can that a person gets is 1 cent.

In 2015, the value of USA ferrous scrap metal industry exceeded $30 billion.

Source: SRI Scrap Yearbook 2016

How to identify the types of metal

Since value of metals can vary a lot, it is important to be able to identify the types of metals.

Apart from the use of magnet, which classifies metals to ferrous and non ferrous, color and texture are the main characteristics used to identify metals.

The characteristics of the most commonly used metals are provided below, aiming at assisting your efforts to identify them easily. For sure, the more you engage with metal scrap the easier it will be to identify types of it.

7 Most common types of metal for recycling

Aluminum

Color:

  • Silvery white

Properties:

  • Non magnetic
  • Excellent conductor electricity
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Quite soft when being pure but strong and hard when silicon and iron are added in small proportions (less than 1%)

Typical use in:

  • Drink cans
  • Window frames
  • Cooking pots
  • Food packaging
  • Boats and aircrafts
  • Overhead power lines

Value:

  • $$$

Brass

Color:

  • Yellowish

Properties:

  • Hard
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Malleable
  • Ductile
  • Good heat and electrical conductivity

Typical use in:

  • Lamp and plug fittings
  • Electrical terminals
  • Locks
  • Marine engines
  • Valve guides
  • Door lock components
  • Wind instruments
  • Radiator cores, tubes and tanks

Value:

  • $$

Copper

Color:

  • Reddish brown when being in good condition
  • Dark brown with green rusted areas if it is worn

Properties:

  • Malleable
  • Ductile
  • Excellent conductor of heat and electricity

Typical use in:

  • Wires
  • Motors
  • Roofing
  • Plumbing
  • Cookware and cook utensils
  • Rainspouts

Value:

  • $$$$

Gold

 Color:

  • Yellow

Properties:

  • Soft
  • Ductile
  • Malleable
  • Resistant to tarnish
  • Good conductor of heat
  • Good conductor of electricity

Typical use in:

  • Jewelry
  • Coinage
  • Watches
  • Electrical connectors
  • Artificial limb joints
  • Dentistry
  • Computers
  • Electronics.

Value:

  • $$$$$$

Lead

Color:

  • Dull silvery-grey metal.

Properties:

  • Dense
  • Durable
  • Malleable
  • Corrosion-resistant

Typical use in:

  • Pipes
  • Flashing
  • Gutters
  • Downspouts
  • Conductor Heads
  • Ammunition
  • Cable sheathing
  • Weights for lifting
  • Weight belts for diving
  • Radiation protection.

Value:

  • $$$

Silver

  • Silver – shiny grey

Properties:

  • Lustrous
  • Soft
  • Ductile
  • Malleable
  • Highest thermal conductor
  • Highest electrical conductor

Typical use in:

  • Jewelry
  • Silverware
  • Electrical contacts
  • Silver-cadmium batteries
  • Silver-zinc batteries

Value:

  • $$$$$

Steel

Color:

  • Usually dark grey or metallic shiny grey

Properties:

  • Magnetic
  • Durable
  • Ductile
  • Tough
  • Heat resistant

Typical use in:

  • Bars
  • Rods
  • Rails
  • Wires
  • Pipes
  • Automotive parts
  • Appliances
  • Fittings
  • Flanges
  • Valves

Value:

  • $

Make money from metal recycling

After identifying the type of your metal(s) you need to make sure that local scrap yards accept it. Following that, an online search for market prices is required to decide to which scrap yard you should address to. If online search is not possible an onsite research and negotiation would guarantee the best deal for you.

Tip: Since you get paid by weight, it is preferred to have collected a reasonable amount of metals before going to a scrap yard. In that way not only you avoid unnecessary routes but the money you receive are more.

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