Collecting Scrap Metal

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Preamble; Please read these pages for more info:


Scrap metal recycling is the future. To some people, it sounds like dystopia; to others, nirvana. The undeniable truth, however, is that it is an opportunity to make a fiscally and environmentally lucrative investment.

People love to talk about recycling like it is a selfless act, strictly done out of love for mother earth. That may be the case for those who set little bits of paper at the street in a green bin. But the real recycling is done for money. It is done for cash money, and I’m not talking Washingtons. I’m talking Benjamins. An average person with a truck can make up to $40,000 a year scrapping metal if they work full time. If they scrap part time as a second job, they could easily make $15,000; thats $290 a week. One extra perk, there are no taxes taken out of your pay check.

Scrap metal has been one of the biggest exports in north america for the last five or ten years. It has gained popularity in that time due mainly to the increase in demand for base metals. Copper in 2006 was getting scrapped at around $2.80, when, in 2000, you were lucky to get 50 cents. The trend is likely to continue: commodities are going up, inflation is kicking ass, and the rest of the world is looking for materials too. The truth is, I don’t see the act of scrapping metal going away any time soon. I see it taking over. I can see a day when you get paid for all your trash so waste management can sort all of the recyclables. Oh, and there’s jet packs.


The Pieces:

Scrapping metal may seem daunting at first, but in reality, it is simple. You find scrap metal, you sell scrap metal. You get paid more for having more metal. You get paid more for having the expensive metal. And you get paid the most when you have more of the expensive metal. Here are just a few of the more common metals:

Currently, some cheaper metals are: iron, and tin
Some moderate metals are: zinc, aluminum, and lead
Some expensive metals are: copper, nickel, cobalt, chromium, and tungsten.

For pictures and full descriptions of usual and unusual metals, including computer scrap, check this out!

Now there are many types of alloys, and those above metals are what mostly make up alloys. For example, if you alloy copper and tin you get bronze, and if you alloy copper and zinc you get brass, both of which have high scrap value. If you alloy iron and carbon (not a metal) you get steel (about as valuable as iron). When you alloy steel with chromium, you get a type of stainless steel. Make sure you know some commonly unidentified alloys.

The Game:

Now for the fun part: making money. The first step is to locate and acquire scrap metal. There is a constant flux of scrap being discarded every day and it is the job of a scrapper to have his or her eyes open constantly. When you see scrap on the side of the road, in a dumpster, at a garage sale, or at an auction, you need to have a reasonable idea of its value. You must collect everything when worth it; and no matter what, if it is free, take it. That means the best way to collect scrap metal, is to collect metal that people are throwing out.

To some people the idea of collecting “trash” is disgusting. Well, I agree. Collecting trash is disgusting. Collecting scrap metal, however, is lucrative and enriching.

Look at it like this. On garbage day, everybody is taking a quarter and setting it at the end of their driveway, or in their collection system. Wouldn’t you think that very silly of people? Wouldn’t you walk, or hell, drive through you neighborhood picking up all of those quarters. For every four houses, you would get a dollar. If it was dimes, would you do it? nickels? Pennies? What if you saw dollar bills? This is what is going on every night before collection day in your neighborhood. People are driving along the curb picking up any of the change you leave at the street.

That seems irrational, right? Well, every home throws out some type of metal every day. Lets say each person tosses out 1 pound of scrap every week. That means every second in the USA over $30 in scrap is being thrown away, or 1 billion dollars every year is going in the trash. That is assuming all of the metal is very, very cheap.

So, the afternoon before the trash is collected near your home, drive around looking for what type of change people are throwing to the curb. This means anything from metal broom sticks to appliances. If you find a lawn order paxil no prescription chair, that’s like a quarter. If you find a big appliance, like a refrigerator, that’s more like a dollar bill. One thing I learned – don’t be afraid to pick up the pennies. In other words, dont hesitate to jump out of your truck to grab a little tiny metal nothing, because you never know what that could lead to. I once jumped out of my truck to grab a small tin box, only to see a mysterious toolbox hidden from my sights. When I popped open the toolbox, I found a giant assortment of brass fittings.

Most people junk hunt with trucks; you could drive around in a car, but you would want to pull a trailer otherwise you wouldn’t be able to pick up much of anything.

Sometimes you may find scrap in places you never thought to look. For instance, every CRT monitor has over 3 dollars of copper in it. If you spent all day harvesting that copper, you could make over $20.00 an hour!

Other things like storage of scrap, trailers to haul scrap, and the best times to go out are debatable.

The value of many things will go up by just accounting for whats inside of the. For example, a small wall plug for your phone is worthless when it breaks. But if you know that the wire is made of copper and the plug part is a copper filled transformer, you suddenly have something worth some value!

The Rules:

So once you get your scrap, what do you do with it?…Well, the answer is simple. Sell it. Sell it for the best deal possible. It may seem obvious, but to some folks its a mystery. I talk to people every day who have absolutely no idea what scrapping metal is. They are so wrapped up as part of a resource digesting machine — they are so far gone from where their discarded commodities are going– that scrap metal seems alien. but I digress. Selling the scrap is really quite easy; the first thing you must do is sort it.

Sorting junk is all about common sense and experience. The more questions you ask at the scrap yard the better. When you ask questions at a scrap yard, they should answer with enthusiasm. If they want to be successful, ultimately, you need to be successful. You can also call ahead, or while you’re working, to get a good handle on things. Because every scrap yard has idiosyncratic procedures and standards, its up to you to figure out what they are looking for.

The first thing, I would say, is to separate  all your metal into ferrous and non ferrous piles. “Ferrous” is latin for iron, so in other words, piles of iron and non iron scrap. The next, is to further subcategorize the non ferrous piles. Copper wire, electric motors, aluminum, zinc, and lead should definitely get separated to the side. Most yards will separate the wire again by % of copper, the aluminum by quality, ect, so find out what they are looking for the next time you go to the yard.

Before your scrap yard weighs all of your stuff, they may or may not ask for identification. Don’t be alarmed, some states require this by law to deter metal theft. Once you are weighted in (however your scrap yard does that) you will most likely get a ticket. That ticket will usually say what quantity and type of metal was brought in, and it will be read at the payout window or booth so you can get paid. The best part is, the money you get will not have any taxes taken out of it!

Scrapping Not Metal?

So metal has recycle value, but what about other things? What about plastic or cardboard or glass? The truth is all of those materials can be scrapped. It just requires a different type of buyer for the job. If you have access to lots of clean plastic or glass, why not find a way to scrap it! Many many materials can get scrapped for around steel price if you are selling the right quality/quantity.


Nobody likes losing. So then how do you start winning? What does it take to make this worth it? As with anything, it takes commitment. It also takes ingenuity and engagement in the community. To scrap is to trek into a whole new world of understanding. If you want to win, you need to work at it. When you pass a catalytic converter on the side of the road, you need to jump out of your car to grab it! You need to tell everyone you can that you scrap. You need to post on Craigslist that you are willing to pick up junk. You need to shop around auction sites looking for deals on scrap. This game is about learning how to see what everybody else can’t


To Sum It Up

Before you go out and put the tips on this website to good use, please remember; Any person can bring a piece of junk to a scrap yard. A Scrap Metal Junkie does it with style, skill, and sensibility. (Oh, and sex appeal.)

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Jurey November 1, 2011 at 5:01 pm

I am in the Lincoln Ne area Scrap yards here pay steel prices for magnetic stainless. How do I locate a yard that will pay more? Is it worth the effort


ScrapMetalJunkie November 1, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Most yards buy magnetic stainless, but it is simply worth “mixed metal” price or HMS. Don’t bother looking for better prices unless you have over 1/2 ton, or can supply a smaller quantity (500 lbs) consistently every few weeks.


JoeScrapperRookie January 5, 2012 at 7:41 am

I am in Toledo, Ohio.
I recently (about 2 months ago) got in the scrapping game. Still on the fuller part of part time I am still learning. This website has been great however I am still confused about a few things.
Around here some days it seems like everyone is scrapping then again some days it seems like no one but me is. The way I have been doing it lately is this- I usually start my run by checking about 20 nearby dumpsters. Then end up on whatever side of town’s garbage day it is and cruise up and down blocks looking for the big piles and hope to hit them before the regular guys do. Then depending on how heavy my mini van is I usually go back to dumpster diving. I also have a few adds posted on craigslist and have been getting more and more creative still not getting many calls tho. I know for sure that I need to be more dedicated and put in more time but what I am unsure of is –Am I allowed to dumpster dive? I usually do it as fast as I can and yes while in the act I am normally nervous. Not out of fear of people seeing me becuase I usually am doing this around 5-8am but nervous that the local police will see me and althought I have no criminal type of record lets just say it would be best that I dont have to speak with the good folks of TPD right now. Also there are soooo many abandoned houses,schools, and buisnesses around here that have either caught on fire in the past or for one reason or another are either boarded up or simply empty with no activity in sight for the future of the property. Am I allowed to enter any of those? I havnt even came close to doing it yet sticking to dumpster diving and roadside hunting about 98 percent of the time. I just want to know more more and yes more about the best ways to locate and I want to be completely on the right side of the law in doing so. I have been like a sponge since day one soaking up as much info as I can but still my end of the day totals havnt grown much. I just want to know the do’s and don’ts in a little more detail if you could. The rest will come with time I hope. Again thank you for making this site bro,,its great and I will be a user for life.


ScrapMetalJunkie January 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Thanks for checking out SMJ! I’m glad you like it!

It is not a good idea to scavenge old buildings; The structures are corroded and they end up becoming death traps for scavengers. Plus, it’s completely illegal.

As for dumpster diving, its a bit of a grey area. Also, I am not familiar with the laws in Canada, but If it is anything like the US, then it is only illegal if the city or passes legislation making it so.


George July 3, 2013 at 4:34 pm

It is illegal in the city of Toledo to dumpster dive without written consent from the owner.


hot to trot October 7, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Then get consent boo. Always ask first in life with anything


Chad March 14, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Great Site! What are those spinny ventilators in roofs typically made of? I suspect a mix of Aluminum and Stainless. very nice site.


Brad March 18, 2012 at 5:46 am

The Sweet Part About Scraping, Don’t Forget A Simple Sole Propritor Business Licence Opens up A Ton Of Doors To Getting Scrap 🙂 And After That Its All Fun…..

I’ve built A Small Empire Scraping….. Its Great For The Enviroment, It Keeps People “employed” And It Does A Darn Good Job At Feeding The Mouths In The House….

Also Love eWaste, I Currently Run The Most HONEST eCycle/Precious Metals Rclimation& Refining Business In The Country….We Are Currently Paying between 65%-80% Of Refined Value On Pre-Cleaned Eletronics…..


Joshua December 28, 2013 at 1:29 am

Hey brad do you still have your scrap business? If so have you ever thought about branching out? I have been a part time and full time scrapper since 06 I am fascinated with metal so it has been my passion when I wasn’t at my work job, which I was a machinist for a company that made everything out of sheet metal,iron,ect. Unfortunately I was laid off last year and besides some odd jobs work has been hard to come by. My wife’s grandmother however has noticed how well I do with scrapping and has offered to invest in opening up my own shop which is like a dream come true,but like you I want to run an honest and educated operation. Not like a lot of other yards around here. If you would be interested in maybe partnering up or just talk and think about it you can email. Or any advice you might have would be appreciated because this is my big shot and I don’t want to mess this up. Thanks for your time.


Nina March 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm

We are gonna scrap a 2000 pd electric motor should we take it apart or sell it as a whole for electric motor prices


ScrapMetalJunkie March 31, 2012 at 4:03 pm

It depend on the type of motor, what type of equipement you have, and how quickly you want the money. If it were me, I would take it apart, because that is what the scrap yard is going to do. If you dont really want to take it apart (it will take a half day or so, plus time an tools) then you can just call up all of the scrap yard in your area and see who offers you the best price for it.


Brent April 6, 2012 at 2:25 am

Hey from Canada,great site. Thanks for taken the time to provide a great site. Just a small tip that can add up is those frebrese cans that people through in the garbage are pure clean aluminum .a person can get forty or fifty cans a day at 15-20 cents each.a little more money than pop tins make.thats why frebrese cost so darn much. Thanks brent


steve January 6, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I have a old house around 100 years old which is going to be demolished, any idea on how much salvage metal could be in the house??? just looking for a rough $$$ amount $1000,2000,3000


Bonnie January 25, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Thanks for the febreeze tip !!!! I’m new to the scraping game , just do it as a hobby !!! I love it and I get FREE money !


Conner H August 1, 2013 at 2:42 am

I recently was working for a buddy of mine who pulled out two (roughly 9 foot copper pipes) from his shed. Ive heard that copper is in high demand and decided Id take them off his hands. I am just wondering how much they might go for and is it worth the trip for just the two pipes or should I collect a bit more scrap copper before taking them in to my local scrap yardd?


Carl August 3, 2013 at 9:47 pm

I just wanted to say thank you. Your site is very informative. It is the best site I have ever come across. I was wondering if you know anything about foreclosure cleanouts. Any info will help i am trying to to do scraping and cleanouts as a full time job and tern it into a large business with at least five dump trucks. I know not to take on to much at once . I am a disabled veteran with a three month old daughter. Thank you for your time . If you are unable to answer this I was wondering if you know a site as informative as yours.


Andrew November 1, 2013 at 4:44 am

Love the site, very informative! I have a quick question for ya. I live in a new neighborhood and there is housing construction all over, is it ok to go and pick up the left-overs(what they throw out and don’t use), or do I need persmission from the construction company?


Ag January 11, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I’m but pro but I’m not a rookie to the scrapping game. I was wondering if there is any scrap price website for the scrapper. Most of the websites that I have found seem to be for the end recycler and not for the guy coming with a load of scrap. Just so I can see of I’m getting the best price.

My current load that I’m working on is about maybe 2000 lbs of steel. Also have maybe 5 to 6 hundred lbs of aluminum. A little copper and a little non magnetic stainless. A lot of it has to be taken apart. But it’s a nice little side job..


Jeff M May 3, 2014 at 5:37 am

What do you do with all the leftover material?


Kamran June 27, 2014 at 12:14 am

I need junk electric wires in bulk….may b in tons any one help me that where i need to find or search.


Frictionsmurf November 18, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Is there any special buyers for particular metals or specific scrap?

I had a bunch of nitronic stainless once. Always wondered.


Chuck February 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Just started scrapping and it is super. Pick it up, sort it, sell it. I now have a store that works and I run it out of my truck.


David Delorme March 31, 2015 at 5:06 pm

very helpful to a newbie like me


caleb May 6, 2015 at 4:45 am

Thank you


Kendall Everett June 28, 2016 at 2:41 pm

I loved your tip to call ahead before selling the scrap metal to the scrap yard. Knowing what metal they need the most will help you know what to look for and which yard to sell to like you mentioned. Calling ahead will also help you plan a schedule so you don’t have to keep the scrap metal for a long time.


Local Hero August 7, 2016 at 6:51 am

Hi, are the forums still up? I get an error message when I try to go there and I see no log-in link on any page here.
I have two HVAC units that I’m trying to determine the value on. Worth selling as working units or better as just scrap? They’re 2 ton Heil units that are 10 years old each. Not worth that much in either case but I’d also like to get them out of the yard.


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