Burning insulated wire in the USA is illegal under the federal Clean Air Act. That’s it folks. Look no further.
(It’s also illegal in Canada.)
Burning wire releases carcinogens/toxins into the air and into the ground around the burn site, including “dioxins, furans, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, particulate matter, heavy metals (such as lead, arsenic, selenium and cadmium) and other pollutants.” For not following code, you can pay a fine of up to $25,000 per day and/or up to 5 years in jail. Also, if you find and report somebody for breaking the federal clean air act, you are eligible for a $10,000 reward!
For the record, just so my position is clear, the money you make by burning copper wire is not worth the risk of burning it!
Say for example that #1 copper scrap is worth 2.60 per pound, scrap insulated wire is worth $1.20 per pound, and burned wire is worth $2.20 per pound… For a pile of wire that weighs under 100 lbs, there is NO reason to burn it.
If you burned 100lbs of insulated copper wire copper wire, and you end up with less than 60 pounds of burned copper, then that means you have broken even…(When you burn copper wire, it loses about half its weight, depending on the type of wire.) see:
Before burning: 100 pounds @ 1.25 per pound = $125
After burning: 60 pounds @ $2.20 per pound= $132
(minus time and money for burning)
On the other hand, if you were to strip the same wire, you would make at least $31!
Whether it’s copper or aluminum wire, insulated wire is not to be burned, even if a scrap yard offers to buy it that way. They know it is illegal and costly, and that is why they are not burning it themselves. If that doesn’t convince you, do it for your health: the last thing anyone wants to be handling is a hot tangle of carcinogenic wire.