Maximizing Your Scrap Metal's Potential

When it comes to scrap metal, one man's junk is definitely another man's treasure. It's easy to get your money's worth from a pile of scrap metal, but there are plenty of ways you can maximize the amount of money you'll get when recycling scrap metals. Take a quick look at these helpful tips for increasing your recycling payoff:

Playing the Markets

The value of scrap metal depends on a wide variety of variables, but no variable is more important than the price of the metals on the global commodities market. Scrap metal dealers usually base the amount of money they'll offer per pound for recyclables on the base metal's current worth on the commodities market. For this reason, it's always a good idea to keep tabs on commodity exchange (COMEX) reports and plan accordingly.

Speaking of planning, you can also play the markets to your own advantage. For instance, it's usually best to stockpile scrap instead of selling it off during the summer months. Demand during this time is usually at its lowest and the price per pound for scrap metal is also low in most cases.

Meanwhile, demand for scrap metal usually increases during the winter months, when collection efforts are likely to be at their lowest and demand for metals at their greatest. You can use this period to offload your stockpiled scrap at the best possible prices.

Know Your Metals

In addition to understanding the markets, it also pays to know what type of metals you're busy stockpiling:

  • Common and widely available, steel and iron tends to bring the lowest prices per pound when scrapped.
  • Commonly used in cans, gutters other lightweight metal goods, aluminum fetches higher prices on average than ordinary steel or iron. Aluminum is easily identified since it's not only shiny in bare form and does not rust, but it also can't be picked up by magnets.
  • Copper is one of the most valuable metals in recycling, so it makes sense to collect as much as you can find. Completely clean copper (commonly known as #1 copper) brings in higher prices per pound than copper that's been painted or soldered (#2 copper).
  • Brass and bronze looks similar to copper, but according to, they both bring in half the value of #1 copper. Nevertheless, it's often easy to accumulate enough brass and bronze for its sheer weight to overcome its relatively low value when compared to copper.
  • Nickel has a value that's currently twice that of #1 copper, but it's also harder to find when collecting scrap metal. Some copper products are actually made of a copper/nickel alloy, also known as "cupronickel."

It's usually a good idea to separate and categorize your scrap stockpiles by metal types. This will help prevent disparate and potentially more valuable types of metal from being lumped in and recycled as less valuable metal.

Don't Be Afraid to Shop Around

The price of your scrap metal can also vary among local scrap yards, so it pays to seek out yards that offer the highest possible prices for your metal. Such price differences may be measured by mere cents, but it can have a big impact when you're dealing with hundreds of pounds of metal.

You can maximize your scrap's value by splitting your haul among different scrap dealers based on the price of different metals. For instance, let's say that one scrap yard offers better prices for #1 copper, but another scrap yard beats it when it comes to aluminum. So it makes sense to take your copper to the yard offering the best price for it and your aluminum to the yard offering better aluminum prices.

It may even be possible to negotiate better rates with the scrap yards in question, especially if you're a consistent, long-time customer. Some scrap yards are willing to give some slight leeway for customers who bring in sizable loads on a regular basis.