How To Scrap A Microwave

Microwave ovens are a piece of technology that everyone has bought, eventual disposes of, and is lucky to scrap! They are relatively dense home appliance full of copper, which makes them a great scrapping item in every meaning of the phrase.

When you scrap a microwave, you should first realize how easy it is to open them up. It usually takes a few screws and you have access to the meat and potatoes of the mechanism, shown below. (The button and clock side of the microwave is the side with all guts, and you will notice that side of the appliance is heavier)

A microwave consists of a Magnetron, transformers, heavy duty wire, a large capacitor and a small motor to rotate its food tray. The two latter items may not be worth the effort of sorting, and I find they are better left inside and sold as mixed metal. (If you are so inclined, you can try to drain the capacitor to sell it as aluminum, but it may not even be half a pound worth. I find i’m better off getting payed for the fluid!)
The magnetron (Click link for more info) is the copper-rich component responsible for generating the microwave energy from electricity.  It can be sold at motor price along with the transformer. If you know that it is in working order, you may want to try your luck selling it on Ebay. Depending on the brand, it may fetch a pretty penny, as microwaves do need repaire. 
The transformer can either have the copper wire cut and pulled out of it, or can be sold at motor price. The key there is to budget and optimize your time
Contrary to what a few people might think, there are NO precious metals in a microwave… unless of course you count copper as well.
When scrapping out a microwave, always consider selling reusable parts. Things like panels, and especially the rotating glass tray, are able to fetch upwards of $20 on eBay, so long as you title everything as specifically and with as much description as possible.  For more info on selling scrap on eBay, check out Selling Scrap Metal on eBay

David December 29, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Great blog! I just started scrapping. I work as a garbage man, so I see a lot of wire in a day.

The Irrationalist December 29, 2010 at 9:56 pm

I always wondered if garbage men try to collect stuff… Do you grab things when you get the chance?

Anonymous January 22, 2011 at 7:15 pm

i worked a lee county solid waste in tupelo ms and ALWAYS made an extra 100.00 usd a day easily from working and non-working junk…yes we collect and make money

Anonymous June 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Is there not a problem with charge in a microwave held in capacitors making it dangerous until they are discharged???

Scrapper man November 9, 2011 at 9:12 am

Yes make sure you wait at least an hour before taking apart a microwave that has been plugged in. As the capacitors contain high stored voltage

Another anonymous May 7, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Get a pair of insulated (1,000 volt) needle nosed pliers or a screw driver that is insulated to 1,000 volts. Short out the positive and negative terminals of the capacitor to be sure it’s discharged. If it’s charged, it will arc and make a loud crack or snap sound but at least you’ll know the stored energy has been dissipated.

Jackhinx December 15, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Does anyone have a quick and dirty way to safely discharge a capacitor from a tv or microwave before scrapping it? I was thinking about filling a galvanized trash barrel with saltwater and dunking them before disassembly. has anyone tried anything like that before?

ScrapMetalJunkie December 15, 2011 at 11:28 pm

You should definitely ask about this in our forum.

But, no; I think dunking your scrap in salt water – although it is inventive – is not a good idea. The capacitors used in modern (read last 30 years) microwaves have a natural “decay” of charge, so to speak, and lose their charge after about a day or so of being unplugged. But in the rare case that you would need to discharge the caps, all you need to do is touch the two leads ( + and – )of the capacitor with a screw driver, shorting it.

My write up on how to scrap a TV actually discribes how to do this safely for a TV, although the threat really is minimal… Unless you plugged in the TV in the last 2 days. then it is worth taking precaution.

Bill December 26, 2012 at 11:40 pm

So there is nothing except the copper that is really salvagable. I can’t make a supper bomb or fun things with the magnatron.

ScrapMetalJunkie December 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm

You can make microwave rays with it!

Jason September 26, 2013 at 12:31 pm

so would i just take the copper to the scrap man? would he want to buy the other parts too?


Johnathan January 22, 2014 at 2:09 am

How much do you get back from microwaves? Range price? I have a small one in basement that is broke. Also it’s been off for months any chance of capacitor holding a charge?

Johnathan January 22, 2014 at 2:10 am

Also does any components hold radiation? What’s up with that radon plate?

ScrapMetalJunkie January 30, 2014 at 9:08 pm

No, none of the components hold radiation, although there is potential for respiratory problems if you smash the ceramic parts in the magnetron.

justin March 27, 2014 at 2:09 am

Microwaves having no precious metal is a false statement… it depends on the type of microwave but the last one i scrapped had both silver as well as a nice chunk of gold in it. So keep your eye out for precious metals in microwaves, it is possible there might be some in there.

ScrapMetalJunkie April 5, 2014 at 7:47 pm

A chunk of gold? Please post a picture! And the model number of the microwave.

shaun April 3, 2014 at 12:57 pm

you haven’t said anything about the radiation part of it. is it a big concern

ScrapMetalJunkie April 5, 2014 at 7:44 pm

You will not get any type of radiation poisoning from disassembling standard microwave ovens. You should be more concerned with getting electrocuted by charged capacitors: Make sure to leave the microwave oven unplugged for over 24 hours before tearing it apart and you’ll be fine.

George Regas August 26, 2015 at 5:06 pm

I just stumbled on to your site. Your knowledge is impressive. I apologize if you are aware of this(I’m sure you are). Before you scrap a microwave check to see if it is as simple as the fuse. Believe it or not I have saved 5 people from throwing out their ovens for a simple 25 cent fix.

Jim February 26, 2016 at 3:02 pm

I just returned from my weekly trip to the local ‘recycle station’ and saw 3 microwaves tossed in the pile of ‘metal only’ junk . Finding your excellent website answered all my questions.

Our local county does sell off the aluminum and copper when bulk packed at the main dump site. They are missing the value of all motors and such by classification as ‘mixed metal only.

Again, many thanks for the enlightenment. JES Sr.

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