Is Scrap Metal Recyclable? How to Properly Disposed of It
Recycling is one of the biggest ways we can make a positive impact on the environment as individuals. By collecting recyclable materials and sending them to special facilities, we can help materials find a new lease on life rather than languishing in a landfill. Instead, you can take your scrap metal to a scrapyard or approved recycling center.
In some cases, the metal is valuable, and you can get some pocket money. Scrap metal from appliances, cars, buildings, electronics, and other items can be recycled, but there’s a catch: only some metals are suitable for recycling. Let’s delve into what metals are recyclable, why you should recycle them, and more relevant info.
Why Should You Bother Recycling Scrap Metal?
The primary benefit of recycling scrap metal is to reduce our impact on the environment. Many scrap metals contain toxic compounds like mercury and lead, which can leach into the earth and contaminate groundwater. As you might imagine, that poses serious health risks to people, animals, and plants.
That’s not the only reason you should recycle scrap metal. Recycling contributes more usable material that can be used to make things, which means we don’t have to mine and process as much raw metal ore. Because metal processing and fabrication produces a lot of pollution, recycling effectively lessens greenhouse gas production. Another important factor is that metal mining has extremely detrimental effects on the areas where ore is found, so recycling helps there too.
If that’s not enough reason for you to recycle, it doesn’t hurt that you can make money by recycling. Scrap yards will typically pay you for scrap metal according to its type and weight.
Aluminum cans and copper wire are some of the most popular items that people collect, though you certainly won’t get rich. Some metals are only worth a few cents per pound while others go for dollars per pound. Either way, you’ll need a lot of scrap metal to make anything but beer money.
Which Metals Can Be Recycled?
As far as their recycling potential goes, not all metals are created equally.
- Aluminum: examples include cans, disposable bakeware, foil, sheet metal
- Copper: mostly found in electrical and electronic components and machines
- Brass: typically found in old home fixtures like doorknobs and dresser handles
- Bronze: used to craft statues, medals, bearings, and other specific purposes
- Cast Iron: mostly found in cookware
- Silver: used in many industries, including jewelry and metalworking
- Gold: used for jewelry, electronics, and more
- Tin: rarely used today, most tin is found in old cookware and cans
- Steel: found nearly everywhere, but most scrap comes from cars and buildings
- Zinc: most scrap zinc comes from cars
Which Metals Can’t Be Recycled?
While most common metals can be recycled, there are three metals that aren’t recyclable because of their risk to people and the environment.
These metals are mercury, lead, and uranium. Most people won’t ever find scrap uranium lying around, but mercury and lead can be found in a lot of household items. We don’t use them today because they’re a health hazard, but there are still a lot of lead paint and mercury thermometers lying around!
If you happen to find lead or mercury in any form, do not recycle it or throw it in the garbage. Instead, wear protective gear, place it in an airtight container with a proper label, and bring it to a hazardous collection center for disposal. Throwing toxic metals in the trash can contaminate soil, groundwater, and even poison people or animals.
Scrap Metal Recycling Tips
Recycling scrap metal isn’t very complicated, but there are a few things you should keep in mind to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Let’s check those out below.
- If you’re recycling multiple types of metal, separate them. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s a common courtesy that cuts down on time sorting and separating metals.
- Research the value of scrap metal beforehand because metal prices fluctuate daily.
- When recycling copper wire, use wire strippers. It’s slower than torching it, but most scrap yards won’t accept blackened copper wire.
- If money is your goal, focus on non-ferrous metals, which are more valuable than ferrous metals.
- The most low-effort way to recycle is to throw your empty aluminum cans in a separate trash bag from your regular garbage.
It probably won’t make you rich, but recycling scrap metal can be a great way to help the environment and make a few bucks in the process. Most types of metal are recyclable, but take special care to properly dispose of hazardous metals at an approved facility. As long as you make sure to research the value of the metal and separate the different types, you’re well on your way to safely recycling.
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