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Scrap Metal Buying Guide

Your guide to what scrap metal is recyclable and where to find it

Non-Ferrous Metals

View Non-Ferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals are lightweight, strong, and malleable, and they’re also more difficult to come by so they tend to have a much higher value than ferrous metals.

Copper | Aluminum | Insulated Wire | Brass | Radiators | Stainless Steel |

Ferrous Metals

View Ferrous Metals

Ferrous metals contain iron, and include stainless steel and steel as well as iron. Ferrous metals make up a majority of scrap metal recycling, and while it is typically not as valuable per pound, it can still be lucrative to recycle in large quantities.

Heavy Torch Steel | Plate & Structural | Heavy Breakable Cast | Ductile Iron | Clean Auto Cast | Mixed Cast | Appliances – White Goods |

Non-Ferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals, including copper, aluminum, brass, nickel, lead, and zinc, are known for their tensile strength and present characteristics that hold an advantage over ferrous metals, mainly by their malleability, lighter weight, and corrosion resistivity.

As such, non-ferrous metals have a higher value than ferrous metals.

There are also other factors that determine a non-ferrous metal price:

  • Non-ferrous metals make up a small percentage of the scrap metal recycling industry but, by value, they make up more than half of the industry. Nonferrous metals are harder to come by making the supply low and the demand high.
  • This drives the prices up. Aluminum tends to remain steady due to general recycling efforts (ex. soda cans) but other types of non-ferrous metals, such
    as copper and brass, can fluctuate widely in prices.

Employees should consider that all of these factors serve to make non-ferrous metals the most lucrative opportunity at Wall Recycling.


Copper is pinkish-red in color, highly ductile, malleable and has high conductivity for electricity and heat. Copper is principally used in the electrical industry in the form of wire, piping, and sheets.

Copper can be purchased in the following categories: Bare bright, Copper #1, and Copper #2, and Sheet Copper. There are also other factors that determine the different prices for copper.

Copper metal recycling

Copper Bare Bright

  • Also referred to as “bright & shiny copper,” it is the most valuable and high-paying grade of Cu.
  • This term refers to exclusively bare, uncoated, and unalloyed wire or cable without attachments, burnt sections of wire, and is free of paint, impurities, signs of tarnishing, or visible signs of oxidation.
Recyclable Copper Scrap

Copper #1

  • This term refers to tubing, piping, or wire-free of fittings, insulation, paint, solder, heavy mud, grease/oil residue, and other materials. Wall Recycling will often accept Copper #1 even with trace amounts of visible oxidation on the tubing.
  • If there is a trace of burnt wire it CANNOT be classified as Copper #1.
Copper metal recycling

Copper #2

  • Often any copper materials labeled this will contain evidence of solder, joints, paint, coatings, additional attachments, and burnt wire.
  • Note that copper wire will often contain a lacquer coating, therefore earning it a Copper #2 metal grade.
  • There should be no steel trace.
Recyclable copper #2 scrap metal

Sheet Copper

  • As the name states, this form of copper is typically thin, flat molded sheets of copper.
Copper sheet scrap recycling


A silver-white metallic chemical element with good electrical and thermal conductivity, high reflectivity, and resistance to oxidation. Aluminum is lightweight, soft, and has low strength. As such, it is commonly used in casting, forging, machining and welding. Aluminum may look like steel but is not magnetic.

Aluminum can be purchased in the following categories: Clip, Used Beverage Cans, Turnings, Cast, Old Sheet, Painted Siding, Extrusion, and Rims, Breakage, EC Wire, and Aluminum Conductor Steel Reinforced (ACSR).

Aluminum can recycling

Aluminum Clip

New, clean and uncoated/unpainted low copper aluminum scrap. No visible signs of grease or oil in excess of 1%

Aluminum clip scrap metal

Used Beverage Cans

  • Self explanatory. This is used soda or beer cans free of excessive moisture over 2%.
  • Be sure to keep an eye out for steel cans.
Aluminum can recycling



Recyclable aluminum shavings

  • Shavings as a by-product of the manufacturing process including boring or grinding.
  • Must be free of excessive oil, steel, and moisture.


Cast Aluminum

Cast Aluminum scrap metal recycling

  • Aluminum that has been involved in the casting or mold after having been heated past the melting point.


Old Sheet Aluminum

Old aluminum sheet scrap metal

  • Old sheet is a self-explanatory term to describe the appearance of thin, flat pieces.
  • OS should only contain steel attachments less than or equal to 5% and must be clean and free from iron, plastic, rubber or other attachments.


Aluminum Painted Siding

Recyclable aluminum painted gutters

  • Clean, low copper aluminum siding scrap. This includes but is not limited to painted sidings, gutters, downspouts, leaders, and trim coils.
  • Any siding must be free of steel, glue/adhesive, plastic coating, iron, fibers, foam or fiberglass.


Aluminum Extrusion

Aluminum extrusion recyclable scrap metal

  • A process by which aluminum alloy material is forced through a die with a specific cross-sectional profile. Most extruded shapes: angles, channels, and round tubes. No excess felt, rubber, plastic, zinc, or cast aluminum allowed.
  • 6063 aluminum is the most common choice for extrusion with its excellent extrudability, high corrosion resistance, and ability to be formed into complex shapes.


Aluminum Rims

recycling aluminum rims

  • Clean rims – No wheel weights or valve stems, no steel. Paid out at market value.
  • Dirty rims – Contains wheel weights, valve stems, steel. Paid out at 1 cent (¢) less than market value.
  • Chrome rims –Contains chrome cover. Paid 13 cents (¢) less than dirty rims.
  • Truck rims (6061 cast) – Paid 13 cents (¢) less than dirty rims.
  • CLAD rims – Contains plastic adhesive on the front. Paid 24 cents (¢) less than dirty rims. Can be bought as Aluminum breakage.


EC Wire

EC wire recycling

  • 99.9% aluminum that is free of insulation, burnt or corroded wire


Aluminum Breakage

Aluminum breakage recycling

  • Aluminum with contaminants such as steel, rubber, plastic, excess dirt.
  • For purchasing purposes, a load of at least 50% aluminum is most desirable.


Aluminum Conductor Steel Reinforced

Recyclable conductor cable

  • Aluminum conductor steel-reinforced cable is a type of high-capacity, high-strength-stranded conductor typically used in overhead power lines.
  • The outer strands are high purity aluminum, chosen for its good conductivity, low weight, low cost, resistance to corrosion,
    and decent mechanical stress resistance.

Insulated Wire

Copper or Aluminum wire covered with nonconducting material, such as plastic or silk, for use in conducting electricity. In addition to insulating single wires, companies can also individually insulate wires in a single bundled cable for the delivery of more complex electrical signals.

Insulated copper wire is classified into 5 categories: ICW #1, ICW #2, ICW #3, MCM, & Heliax.

Copper wire insulated number 3

Insulated Copper Wire #1

Recycled insulated copper wire

  • #1 insulated wire consists of copper wire or cable which is clean, unalloyed, uncoated and untinned. It should also be plastic insulated, of 16-gauge thickness or larger, with all ends cut off.
  • No wire nuts or plugs, no rubber, no asbestos insulation.
  • ICW1 Copper recovery: 70-75%.
  • House wire/Romex – typically going to have multiple layers of insulation.
  • HW/Romex recovery: 65% Insulated Copper Wire #2

Insulated Copper Wire #2

Recycled Number 2 insulated copper wire

  • #2 grade insulated copper consists of unalloyed wire – thinner than 16 gauge – which includes heavy, double or plastic insulation.
  • Copper recovery: 40-50%


Insulated Copper Wire #3

Copper wire insulated number 3

  • Drop cords, drop lights, jumper cables, or any insulated copper wire containing a plug
  • Copper recovery: 30%
  • Examples: Laptop chargers with box, Christmas lights, etc.



Recycled MCM Copper cables

  • When wires get very large their sizes are sometimes purchased at MCM.
  • MCM means Thousand (M) Circular (C) Mils (M). A 250MCM wire is wire with an area equal to 250 x 1000 Circular Mils.
  • Copper recovery: 85-92%


Aluminum Triplex

Recycle aluminum triplex

  • Triplex wire is commonly used for overhead, single-phase service and contains three individual wires twisted around each other, protected by an outer layer of protective material.



Coaxial metal heliax recycling

  • Coaxial cable in which the inner conductor is supported by a spiral strand of polyethylene, so that an air space exists between most of the conductor and the inside of the jacket.
  • Designed for signal transfers in AM/FM radio, UHF/VHS TV, and other communication systems.
  • Hollow Heliax is often used in cell phone and radio towers.
  • Copper Recovery: 50-55%


A combination of zinc and copper, often found in keys, valves, doorknobs, and faucets.

This heavy metal has a yellowish color (with a touch of red), but often takes a greenish appearance when left outside for a prolonged period.

No Aluminum brass or manganese bronze.

Brass can be purchased in the following categories: Yellow, Dirty, Red, Shells.

Recycled brass shells

Yellow Brass

recyclable yellow brass

  • Yellow Brass is a copper alloy that comprises about 60-65% copper, 30 40% of zinc, tin, and traces of lead.
  • Yellow Brass can consist of brass solids, castings, rolled brass, tubing, or plated brass.


Red Brass

Recyclable red brass

  • Red brass features a reddish hue thanks to the high concentration of copper in its composition
  • No attachments, no stainless steel
  • 85/5/5/5
  • 85% Copper, 5% Tin, 5% Silicon, 5% Lead


Irony Brass

Recycled Irony brass peices

  • Generally, dirty brass has foreign contaminants including:
  • Oil
  • Steel attachments
  • Wood
  • Glass
  • Often found in plumbing (spigots, faucets, pipes, fixtures, etc.)


Brass Shells

Recycled brass shells

  • No shotgun shells
  • No steel
  • No aluminum
  • Less than 2-5% nickel/chrome plated
  • No live or used munitions
  • It is illegal to ship live munitions internationally without a permit.




Radiators are heat exchangers used to transfer thermal energy from one medium to another for the purpose of cooling and heating.

Radiators are classified in 8 categories: Aluminum Copper, Aluminum Copper with steel, Aluminum with steel, Aluminum, Brass Auto Radiator, Brass Auto Radiator with steel, Aluminum radiator ends, and truck radiators.

Brass radiator without steel recycling

Aluminum Copper Radiator

Recycled aluminum copper radiator

  • Aluminum fins with copper tubing
  • At point of purchase, seller must provide HVAC license, EPA number, or receipt for replacement of personal unit.
  • No steel allowed


Aluminum Copper Radiator with Steel

aluminum copper radiator recycling

  • Aluminum Copper radiators, except with steel attachments typically found in the ends or frame of the radiator


Aluminum Copper Radiator Ends

Recycle aluminum copper radiator ends

  • Ends of Aluminum Copper radiators usually containing steel or iron


Aluminum Radiators with Steel

Aluminum radiators with steel recycling

  • Steel found in the plastic ends


Aluminum Radiator

Aluminum radiator recycling

  • Considered a “clean” radiator meaning it is free from all steel or any attachments


Brass Radiators With & Without Steel

Brass radiator without steel recycling

  • What would otherwise appear as an aluminum radiator can be identified as brass by scratching the coils to reveal the yellowish tint of brass.
  • Brass radiators can be clean, or free of steel, or dirty meaning they contain steel most often found in the ends.


Auto Radiator

Auto radiator recycling

  • Clean aluminum radiators and/or condensers from an automobile.
  • No contaminants including steel, plastic, or foam.


Truck Radiator

truck radiator recycling

  • Contains brass and/or copper coils encased in a steel frame
  • Most often found on large tractor trailer hauler trucks

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is composed of a group of iron-based alloys that contain chromium, a composition that prevents the iron from rusting and provides heat-resistant properties. Stainless steel is classified into a multitude of categories.

Wall Recycling will purchase stainless steel of all kinds including 301 Stainless, 304, Stainless, 316 Stainless, and 400-level Stainless.

Irony Stainless steel recycling

304 Stainless vs. 316 Stainless

304 vs 316 Stainless steel

  • A major difference between 304 and 316 stainless steel is the chemical composition.
  • 316 stainless is more valuable of the two grades due to the higher nickel content.

400 Stainless

Stainless steel bolts

  • The 400 series group of magnetic stainless steels has an 11 percent chromium and 1% manganese increase, above the 300 series group.

Irony Stainless

Irony Stainless steel recycling

  • Contains any form of contamination including plastic, steel, rubber, etc.
  • Irony stainless with more than 25% insulation will be purchased as shred

Spare Engine Parts

  • Starters, alternators, and A/C compressors can all have scrap metal value due to the
    high copper content.
  • On average, ~95% of any vehicle can be recycled.


  • Copper core surrounded with a casing of either steel (less value) or aluminum (more value)
  • Identifiable by the unique star piece found at one end of the starter called a pinion
Recycle car starter


  • Often bought or sold with starters
  • Copper core with steel casing
  • The alternator provides a vehicle with the bulk of its electricity and helps recharge the battery.
Recycle car alternators

Electric Motors & Sealed Units

Most motors contain valuable copper and aluminum components.
The exterior of most motors are comprised of steel with a strong shell that protects the more fragile wiring and parts within.

Electric Motors

  • Small motors generally about the size of a basketball
  • Large motors generally are larger than a basketball but less than 2,000 pounds
  • Over-sized motors weigh excess of 2,000 pounds and can vary in value depending on application
electric motor recycling

Sealed Units

  • Sealed units are compressors or gas chambers most often found in refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioning units.
  • Sealed units are metallic with motors and copper core windings.
recyclable sealed unites

Aluminum vs Steel Flex Wire

  • Flex wire is a metal encasing that provides protection for conductors, cables, and wires.
  • Both have high mechanical strength and flexibility.
  • Flexible metal conduit is often referred to as “Greenfield”
Aluminum flex wire

Lead Acid Batteries

  • Lead acid scrap car batteries contain large amounts of lead and an acid-based solution that allows electricity flow in motorized vehicles.
  • The outer casings of scrap car batteries are made from hard plastic and the inside is lead & lead acid solution.
  • Lead acid batteries are found in late model vehicles and are much heavier than their lithium counterparts found in hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles.
recyclable car lead acid battery

Die Cast

  • Die casting refers to a metal casting process that is characterized by forcing molten metal under high pressure into a mold cavity.
die cast recycling


  • E-waste or electronic waste is created when an electronic product is discarded after the end of its useful life.
Recyclable electronic waste

Power Supply

  • A power supply is a hardware component used to supply power and provide cooling to a computer.
  • It can contain wires and circuit boards attached to it. It may also consist of capacitors, transformers and aluminum heat sink and steel screws.
Power brick recycling

Battery Back-up

  • A power supply is a hardware component used to supply power and provide cooling to a computer.
  • It can contain wires and circuit boards attached to it. It may also consist of capacitors, transformers and aluminum heat sink and steel screws.
Backup battery recycling


  • A motherboard (also called mainboard, main circuit board, system board, baseboard, planar board, logic board, or mobo) is the main printed circuit board in general-purpose computers.
  • It holds and allows communication between many of the crucial electronic components of a system, such as the central processing unit (CPU) and memory and provides connectors for other peripherals.
Motherboard recycling

Low grade boards

  • Appearance is typically brown and brittle and often found in TVs, microwaves, dishwashers, and other household electronics.
  • Each board holds minimal to no silver or gold.
Low grade boards recycling

Mid grade boards

  • Appearance is typically blue/green board.
  • Each board holds some silver or gold.
Mid-grade motherboards

High grade boards

  • High Grade Circuit Board Scrap contains gold plated populated or unpopulated boards.
  • These boards contain precious metals that can be refined for a profit.
Motherboards high grade

Disk Drives

  • In computing, an optical disc drive (ODD) is a disc drive that uses laser light or electromagnetic waves within or near the visible light spectrum as part of the process of reading or writing data to or from optical discs.
Recycle disk drive

Hard Drives

  • A hard disk drive, hard disk, or hard drive is an electromechanical data storage device that stores and retrieves digital data using magnetic storage and one or more rigid rapidly rotating platters coated with magnetic material.
Recyclable hard drive

Heat Sinks

  • A heat sink is a passive heat exchanger that transfers the heat generated by an electronic or a mechanical device to a fluid medium, often air or a liquid coolant, where it is dissipated away from the device, thereby allowing regulation of the device’s temperature.
  • At a basic level, a heat sink is a form of extruded aluminum.
Heat sync scrap metal

Copper Yokes

  • Copper Yokes are a series of weaved copper wire that can often be found behind TV monitors when they are taken apart.
Copper yokes recycling

Ferrous Metals

  • Ferrous metals include mild steel, carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron, and wrought iron.
  • These metals are primarily used for their tensile strength and durability, especially mild steel which helps
    hold up the tallest skyscrapers and the longest bridges in the world.
  • Ferrous metals are easier to come by making the supply much higher than non-ferrous metals. In fact,
    ferrous metals are the most recycled materials in the world.
  • Since ferrous metals are recycled consistently throughout the world the prices tend to remain steady, only fluctuating slightly.
  • There are also other factors that determine a ferrous metal price:
  • It is the high carbon content that causes ferrous metals to rust easily. These same metals are also magnetic leading to their usage in appliances, such as refrigerators.
  • Due to these properties, some common places where ferrous metals are used are skyscrapers, shipping containers, railroad tracks, long bridges, industrial piping, and automobiles.

Net Ton vs. Gross Ton

net ton vs gross ton

Prepared vs. Unprepared Steel

  • Prepared steel must be no larger than 2 feet by 3 feet in size. Prepared steel is single dimensional steel that is in 3-foot sections or smaller.
  • Unprepared steel can include materials larger in size than prepared materials and will need to be cut by shear or torch in order to create a prepared material.
  • #1 vs. #2
    • #1 Steel is any piece of steel 1/4 quarter inch thick or more.
    • #2 Steel includes materials thicker than 1/8 inch, or any galvanized / blackened steel.

Heavy Melt Steel

  • Heavy melting steel (HMS) or heavy melting scrap is a designation for recyclable steel and wrought iron.
  • It is broken up into two major categories: HMS 1 and HMS 2.
Recycling heavy melt steel

Heavy Torch Steel

  • Heavy torch steel is any steel that cannot be cut by any means except from a torch, exceeding ½ inch in thickness.
  • Heavy torch steel cannot be run through a shredder, nor can an industrial shear head shear it.
  • The only way to prepare heavy torch steel for a steel mill is to physically cut it with cutting torches.
Heavy torch steel

Plate & Structural

  • Plate and structural steel, often referred to as P&S, is a cut grade of ferrous scrap that is presumed to be free of any contaminates.
  • Includes items like clean open hearth steel plates, structural shapes, crop ends, sheerings, and broken steel tires
Recyclable plate steel

Heavy Breakable Cast

Heavy breakable cast is a grade of cast iron. The weight specifications of this metals grade must measure more than 500 pounds.

Heavy breakable cast scrap

Ductile Iron

  • DICL pipe (ductile iron concrete lined), commonly used for utility water mains, showing iron casing, concrete lining, and textured polymer protective coatings on the inner and outer surfaces.
Recycle ductile iron

Clean Auto Cast

  • Clean automobile cast, better known as “auto cast” is a specially processed grade of scrap.
  • Free of all steel parts, except camshafts, valves, valve springs, and studs.
Recycle clean auto cast

Mixed Cast

  • Mixed cast may include all grades of cast iron except burnt iron such as stove parts, grate bars, and other miscellaneous burnt iron pieces.
  • Dimensions should not be over 24 inches x 30 inches and no scrap piece should be over 150 pounds in.
mixed cast metal recycling

Appliances, White Goods, SHRED

  • Recycling appliances involves destruction of the equipment to recover materials, generally by shredding, sorting and grading.
  • Main types of appliances that are recycled are televisions, refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, and computers.
appliance recycling