There are few places in life more charmingly apocalyptic than the modern-day scrap yard. Servicing businesses large and small, as well as everyday folks trying to recycle, scrap yards are the beginning link in the metal recycling chain. The seemingly chaotic buzzing of workers, forklifts, dump trucks and patrons is actually the sound of a century old industry raking in $80 billion annual revenues in the US alone.
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What is a Waste Stream?
No matter what industry you work in, there is always some type of waste material, or material that is leftover after a process or operation. At the end of the day, you may be left with several different types of waste materials. This is called a waste stream.
Every person and every company has a waste stream. Some of the waste materials are non-recyclable, like food waste, pollution, or bio-hazardous waste. On the other hand, most of the waste stream is recyclable! Anything from corrugated paper, plastic bottles, and of course scrap metal, are all highly recyclable waste materials. It is much easier to grind old paper than to cut down a tree, and it is much easier to melt an old aluminum can that to mine and refine bauxite; that is why scrap yards exist.
What are Scrap Yards for?
The purpose of a scrap yard is to buy scrap metal (and sometimes other waste materials) at competitive prices so value can be pulled out of a waste stream. The scrap yard will buy the material by the pound — or by the ton — and will pay you depending on what type of material you are selling. Most trips to the scrap yard involve selling more than one type of scrap metal.
A scrap yard, essentially, is a waste material broker. Their main reason for existing is to correctly and reliably funnel different types of materials to different refiners. They buy scrap metals in small quantities, gather large amounts in a scrap heap, and then sell it all for more money to refineries. (Refineries will only buy large volumes of scrap metal by contract from a well-established supplier.)
The strange part about scrap yards is, although they may call you a customer to your face, you are actually their supplier! Their real customers are the refineries that they sell to, and they will do whatever is necessary to keep their customers happy. (So, just keep that in mind.)
What is Scrap Metal?
Scrap metal refers to any number of metal waste materials, and is often the result of industrial, construction, demolition or repair processes involving metal or metal products. Some simple examples of scrap metal categories are dirty aluminum, #1 copper, or cast zinc, while some more complicated examples would be electric motors/transformers, HMS #1, or Zorba.
A scrap yard is very interested in buying the many common types of scrap metals found in waste streams today. Old copper wire, broken appliances, and scrap automobiles all get bought for different prices at the scrap yard. You’ll notice that they do not contain entirely metal.
Scrap metal waste streams may contain plastics, wood, styrofoam etc and can still be sold to a scrap yard. Cars, refrigerators, and computers are all examples of things sold at a scrap yard despite having small to medium amounts of contamination.
Scrap metal recycling is the most profitable form of recycling, and, for this reason, is sometimes overlooked in discussions on the matter of recycling and waste stream management. If your office takes the time to recycle paper or cardboard, it needs to recycle old computers, broken tools, or aluminum cans too.
How to Sell Scrap Metal:
The process for selling scrap metal is straight forward, but it’s best to go to the scrap yard knowing as much as possible.
- Sort Your Metal: This is done before you get to the scrap yard. Look over the different categories of scrap metal and channel your scrap into corresponding buckets and containers. Nobody at the scrap yard, including the employees, will want to show you any mercy if your material isn’t…