Top 5 Scrap Metal Myths

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Scrap Metal Myths and Misconceptions Explained

Explaining Myths and Misconceptions about Scrap Metal is a reoccurring theme for most scrap yard employees.  It’s human nature to want to believe, especially when things seem to good to be true.  Trust me I  know, every year I convince myself that the Buffalo Bills will make the playoffs.  Over the years I have tried to help educate my customer base the best I could.  For the most part it worked and the lessons seemed to be appreciated.  The Myths and Misconceptions below never seemed to fit into that category.  For whatever reason these topics normally caused arguments, mistrust, hurt feelings and worst of all broken professional relationships.  I hope this list clears the air and helps scrappers keep up a good relationship with their chosen recycler.

Scrap Metal Myth #5

Bigger isn’t always Better

Oversized Scrap metal mythFinding large over sized steel objects always feels like an instant win.  That concept is very understandable.  Conventional wisdom would say “this has to pay more than the refrigerator I sold here last week”.  The truth is you are right and wrong.  A large majority of Steel before it can be recycled must first be sent through a shredder before finally being passed on to a smelter.  In order for this to happen the Steel must be first be cut down to certain sizes allowing it to safely pass through the shredders.  Now it’s not all bad news, if you have the tools and are capable, scrappers can “prepare” the Steel before selling it.  Simply call your favorite Scrap Yard and ask them for their (standards change from place to place) dimensions for prepared steel.  Cutting the Steel yourself could bring on average an extra 3-5 cents per pound.  Now on the flip side if you can’t prepare the Steel, someone has to.  That is why most yards have an “un-prepared” or “torch steel” price that is normally lower than normal shred prices.

Scrap Metal Myth #4

Stainless Steel isn’t always Stainless Steel

Stainless steel Scrap metal mythStainless Steel in the appliance world is more about the look than the real material.  Remember scrappers the magnet is your most important tool.  Every spring Scrap Yards become flooded with back yard grills.  Out with the old and in with the new.  It is rare that a “Stainless” grill is what it seems.  The same could be said for most kitchen equipment.  If there are Stainless components attached most times it is for decoration and accounts for very little of the total weight.  The rule of thumb that I have always told customers, is unless you paid over $1000 it’s not very likely going to be all Stainless.

Scarp Metal Myth #3

Burning Copper Wire

Burning copper wire scrap metal mythI couldn’t possibly think of how many times I have tried to explain this misconception.  First lets start with the legal side of this.  I know in NC and probably every other state, burning copper wire is illegal.  I could be wrong, there might be a state or two where this isn’t a problem,  but I will speak for the state that I’ve worked in.  So on top of facing a huge fine, the math behind burning wire makes no sense.  Scrap Yard pricing is based on of copper recovery.  If the wire is 35% copper the pricing normally reflects that.  You are investing a lot of labor and legal risks for close to nothing in return.  There are cases where customers have been taken advantage of and not paid correctly but that’s a whole different story.  Here is the math based on the current market.  Keep in mind prices vary and so do categories.

35% #2 ICW (common recovery) 100lbs @ .60= $60.00 sold as wire.
#2 copper 35lbs @ $1.75= $61.25 sold as burnt copper.

Scrap Metal Myth #2

Recovering Gold from E-Scrap

Escrap gold scrap metal myth

I’m going to handle this Scrap Metal tip  in a classic true of false style.  This is a highly debated topic.  I am a huge believer in Risk Vs. Reward.

True in older computers and communication equipment there was a higher Gold content.  Naturally technology has changed drastically, making manufactures less dependent on gold.   What was once a $2,000 computer is now a $300 computer.  At $1,200 per ounce how much Gold do you really expect to extract from a $300 product?

False Gold can be extracted in a safe manner by an amateur from home.  According to this theory a Chemistry degree is a waste of time.  The phrase long-term health risk is just that.  Feeling healthy the next day does not translate to safe.  Remember when Doctors smoked in hospitals?  That changed once the long-term effects became obvious.

Please anyone reading this blog.  Take this serious, there is nothing safe or profitable about extracting Gold from computers.

Scrap Metal Myth #1

Pop can tabs and their value

Pull Tab Value scrap metal myth

The reason that I chose Pop Can Tabs as my #1 Scrap Metal misconception is simple.  Hope and heartbreak.  Many times customers have approached me with milk jugs or larger quantities of pull tabs.  In most cases it was obvious that they were saving up for that special moment to cash in huge.  The myths about the value of tabs has varied.  I have heard that the aluminum used is worth anywhere from $2.00 per pound all the way up to $100 per pound and even time on a dialysis machine.  The basis of this myth began when charities began using the tabs as fundraising tools.  Sponsors  would give X amount of money for X amount of tabs collected.  Over time the myth began to give the pull tabs a dollar value instead of the donation pledge.

That wraps up my 5 Scrap Metal myths and misconceptions.  I hope you found my list informative.  If you have any questions or future topics please contact me.  Check back next week for another Scrap Metal Guide.

11 thoughts on “Top 5 Scrap Metal Myths”

  1. Thanks for your tips. I am part of the group that thought it was better to have big pieces of metal for scrapping than smaller pieces. I never considered that it might need to go through a shredder before it could be used. How much would I lose on a large item that needs to be cut down to size?

  2. I’m glad that you cleared up this information about scrap metal. It’s interesting that there’s a higher cold content in older computers. I suppose that’s by my parents told me to keep my old computer equipment. It would be interesting to find out how much I can get from selling my old computer parts for buyers to get the gold out of them. Thanks for posting this!

  3. I had no idea that size wasn’t the only factor in deciding how much you got when you sell it to a scrap yard. Asking ahead to see what they will take is important like you mentioned. It may also help to ask the scrap yard if the type of metal you had is what they need at the time.

  4. I have a couple of friends that always collect the pop can tabs from people in the office. I figured they were recycling them, but I hope they don’t think they’re going to make a ton of money. I think as a whole, the scrap metal business is all about doing little bits at a time to add up to that big pay day.

  5. I don’t see the benefit of burning copper wire either. There are recycling options available and money to be made. It is interesting that this is still a problem even with it being illegal.

  6. It is interesting to learn that a large majority of steel must be sent through a shredder before being passed on to a smelter to be recycled. Finding objects that can easily pass through this machinery makes the process easier. Knowing which metals are valuable would be helpful. I have heard that kitchen utensils are usually in demand.

  7. Thanks for bringing to my attention that large pieces of steel need to be cut down to certain sizes before being recycled. My husband and I have quite a bit of scrap metal laying around, and we were thinking about recycling it. Some of the pieces are really large, so maybe we should talk to the scrapper to see if it needs to be cut down and prepared first.

  8. It is good to know that that pull tabs are generally worth 2 dollars per pound. I have always heard that they are worth more than that, so it is good to know that is a myth. It does seem like a good idea to do some research about scrap metal before you start collecting it.

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  10. Thanks for explaining that older computers and communication equipment actually used a higher level of gold content in their technology. My husband and I actually have a lot of old computer parts in our basement from one of his previous jobs, but I want to get rid of them soon so we can use the space for other storage. I’m glad I read your article because I never would have thought to sell the parts for scrap gold before, but now I’m excited to see how much I can get!

  11. It’s good to know that steel needs to be cut down to smaller sizes in order to pass safely through shredders that will turn it into scrap metal. My brother has a bunch of unused steel sitting in his yard, and he’d like to get it recycled. I’ll share this information with him so that he can look further into his options for getting it cut down and scrapped.

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