According to the EPA, nine percent of landfill waste is scrap metal. That may not originally seem like a lot, but it breaks down to over 23 million tons of often unnecessary global trash space prior to recycling efforts. The concept of scrap metal recycling isn’t new, and it doesn’t just benefit the planet. It can also benefit your finances. Individual pieces of metal can be recycled multiple times, reused, and repeated. Creating anything from extra pocket change to an extra paycheck is feasible via metal recycling. And the good news is anyone can do it. Of course, you need to know the basics.
Ferrous Vs. Non-Ferrous
Anything made of metal can be recycled, but its monetary value depends on what type of metal is used. Ferrous metal contains iron while non-ferrous metal doesn’t, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out which is which. You simply need a magnet. Even a refrigerator magnet will do in a pinch. Ferrous metal will stick to the magnet. Non-ferrous metal won’t.
Metals comprised of steel and iron are the typical options for ferrous metals. And while there are loads of ferrous metal sources in landfills that can and should be recycled, they don’t pay well in recycling centers unless you cart enormous amounts at a time. Non-ferrous metals are the money makers. These include aluminum, stainless steel (very different from building grade steel), brass, bronze, and copper.
Know What You Can Recycle
Americans alone are responsible for approximately 2.7 million tons of aluminum every year, and only around 50% is recycled. Recycling metal-based cans take 74% less energy than creating new cans. So even if you don’t need the money, recycling is incredibly beneficial for the planet. According to Gallup polls, 48% of Americans drink soda every day. It takes a lot of recyclable cans to make decent money, but there are plenty to be found. Tin foil and bakeware are other great sources of aluminum. Recycled aluminum pay fluctuates, but it starts around $.35 per pound. So, it’s possible to bank a decent amount thanks to the bad habits of others.
Clean stainless steel isn’t hard to find. While it’s heavier than aluminum, it’s lighter than most other metals. Tin is also a good choice to recycle, and since the U.S. uses 100 million metal cans that aren’t aluminum, they’re readily available for the picking. Be sure to clean the cans and opt for quality over quantity to ensure top dollar. Clean stainless steel might only bring in $.35 per pound, but it adds up quickly.
Brass and bronze can be found in old radiators, obsolete medical equipment, construction equipment, pipes and fittings, keys, light fixtures, and old furnishings. Brass can be worth as much as $1.25 per pound for clean, yellow metal. But it can also be quite heavy, so consider that before loading.
Copper is one of the most desired metals, but it’s also tougher to find. It’s often hidden in plumbing fixtures, construction equipment, and wiring. Unclean copper coils can payout starting at $.75 per pound while clean copper can reach payouts of over $2 per pound.
Have a Plan and Don’t Be Afraid to Think Outside the Box
Picking up a can here or there may put a few bucks in your pocket, but it won’t put a dent in your monthly bills. You can recycle for personal gain or turn it into an actual business. Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll need to know the product you intend to collect and recycle, keep up on current pricing, learn the industry language to avoid being taken, and build relationships with your sources. If you turn your efforts into a business, make a plan and stick to it. Have fun and be open to discovering new and unique ways to convert metal recycling into cold, hard cash.