Last updated on April 4th, 2018
Scrap metal recycling can be a simple and prosperous activity if you know how to do it. Find out fast and easy how you can make a living from scrap metal recycling.
What do I need to start collecting scrap metal?
As already mentioned scrap metal recycling can be very simple. To begin collecting scrap metal, you will need:
- A magnet. This is probably the most useful gadget for all scrappers. You do not need big-sized, fancy magnets to do your job. Even a pocket-size magnet will allow you to distinguish ferrous from nonferrous metals. The rule is quite simple: If the magnet sticks to the metal then it’s most likely ferrous.
- Knowledge of different types of metals. For the case that a metal is nonferrous you should be able to distinguish it from others. You will see later on why.
- A container (i.e. a box or a barrel) or even better a vehicle (i.e. a truck or even your car is ok) to collect metals in. The vehicle will make easier your transportation and will allow you to cover bigger areas, especially if you have collected big and heavy items.
Start from your home!
If you are not familiar with the scrap metal recycling procedure you are advised to start small and more specifically with the scrap metal you might find in your house.
To begin with, gather all the scraps metals and useless metallic items in an area. It would be preferred if the area would be under a shed to avoid exposure to weather conditions.
Following collection, you are suggested to cut the cords on all the appliances and keep them separated. Most of these wires are made of copper and achieve higher prices.
Then proceed to basic identification of metals and try to separate them.
Use of containers, boxes and bags will make this task easier. Keeping separate your scrap metal will allow you to request and achieve a higher price in the scrap yard. The reason is that you know exactly what you are selling and not some bulk materials.
In case your state does not have a can deposit law, focus on aluminum cans. They can be found and stored separately quite easily.
Where can you find scrap metal?
In most cases people throw away metals because they are not aware of their value. Therefore it is very common to find scrap metal almost everywhere.
A very good way to start your activity is to go from door to door and inform people with flyers that you collect scrap metal and that you would be more than happy to receive any unnecessary scrap metal they might have.
This alone however might not achieve a regular flow of scrap metal and further actions could be taken. For example you could enter demolition sites and buildings to remove metals. Notice however that in these cases permission is required. Otherwise you might be prosecuted for trespassing and theft.
In case that you would like to increase the viability of your scrap metal job, a more constant source of scrap should be sought. The free section of Craiglist could be seen as a valuable option.
Collecting and sorting metals
Appropriate collection and separation of metals is very important and can achieve the most money possible for the load you have collected. In brief you need to:
- Use a unique container for each type of metal. You should avoid showing up at a scrap yard with your metals mixed. The reason is that the money you will receive for your load will be of the value of the least valuable metal. Otherwise you will have to leave and come back after having separated them.
- “Purify” your scrap, meaning not to remove contaminants, but to remove any attachments from the metal you want to sell. The importance of this action is easily understood using the example of copper. More specifically, #1 Copper means that 99% of the metal’s weight is copper, free of any paint or brass attachments. On the contrary, #2 Copper means that 96% or more of the weight is copper, but attachments such as paint, brass or any other metal are responsible for its downgrade.
- Secure your scrap load. It is very common for scrap metal to be stolen from construction sites, warehouses, businesses, etc. Therefore it is very important to store your loads in safe places.
Where can you sell your metal?
Having collected and separated your metal you will be ready to sell it. Use the recycling center locator to find your nearest scrap yards.
Before visiting your local scrap yards you are advised to call ahead and find out which is offering the best price for the load you have collected. In most cases offers are comparable, whereas you will be as well informed if you will be paid in cash or if you will receive a check.
Tips for your scrap yard visit
The tips below aim at making your life easier before and when visiting a scrap yard:
- Look for signs notifying where you need to go.
- If your load is big enough head to the truck scales to weigh your vehicle.
- Try to avoid mixing metals while you load.
- Stay alert for workers, customers and especially heavy equipment.
- Always be patient, clear and polite.
- Unused or items that do not look like scrap may not be accepted.
- Items belonging to railroads, utility companies and commercial industries may be rejected if there is no proof that you have the rights to sell it.
- Sealed tanks, radioactive material or any other potentially dangerous material could be rejected.
How much money can you earn from scrap metal recycling?
Income from metal scrapping may range from a few dollars a month to a few thousand depending on the loads you collect and the connections you might have to regular scrap generators. Even though market prices change and depend on supply and demand, the following numbers might give you an idea on the value of some common metals.
- Light iron and other ferrous metals: $0.06-$0.10 per lb. Despite the low price, these metals are commonly found and it is easier to collect big loads of them.
- Aluminum: $0.50 cents per lb.
- Stainless steel: $0.42 cents per lb.
- Brass: $1.60 per lb.
- Copper: $2.65 per lb.
- Insulated copper wire: $0.90 per lb.
Given the above, it is not rare for a scrapper to make $100-$200 a day from his loads. For sure, not bad if you are looking for a little extra cash.