Beginner’s Guide: Scrapping 101

Learn how to scrap and make more money

Getting started with scrapping and recycling metals can be an overwhelming task for someone who isn’t familiar with the scrap industry. It is also difficult to find good information for beginners that can clarify exactly where to get started. The iScrap App team has years of experience in the scrap industry and lives and breathes it every day. We can list some of the common items below that any scrapping beginner would usually come across when starting off. Some of these items can and should be taken apart for the components inside, but it really depends on a number of factors.

How Do You Get Started Scrapping?

The old cliche, “Time is money,” applies to much of what scrapping is about. If you are taking extra time to take items apart, it is important to ensure that you will profit more from those items than if you were just to scrap them as a whole unit. Once you begin scrapping, especially if it is your full-time job, you must value your time and figure out how much you are worth an hour. Maybe you are worth $20 per hour to start off, but as you become more efficient, the ins and outs of scrapping your worth per hour can climb. That is an important thing to keep in mind when you are first starting out, and also remember if you are new at something, you may make a few mistakes at first, but that’s how you learn.

To Take Apart or Not To Take Apart, That is The Scrapping Question

  • Electric Motors – They can be very tempting to take apart once you have collected quite a few because of the glimmer of copper wire peeking out from inside but think about the time it will take you. The copper wire inside is NOT bare bright copper or #1 wire. Instead, it is #2 copper wire, so that you won’t get the top price. Also, it can take a good amount of time to remove the steel casing and unwind all of the wire. We suggest taking electric motors apart if you have more than 50 pounds.
  • Sealed Units – Very similar to electric motors, sealed units are heavy and have copper wire inside. However, they are encased in solid steel outside casing, making it very difficult to open. You usually need to use a sawzall to cut through the steel casing. This can be very time-consuming, so we never suggest taking them apart. The turnaround in profit is not worth the time and the sacrificed Sawzall blades.
  • Computer Towers – These are becoming more common in the scrap yards, because of many people switching to laptops. Computer towers are very easy to take apart but if you don’t have a lot of them and you take the components out, you will actually lose money. By removing the RAM, motherboard, hard drive, low-grade boards, and Power Supplies the individual components are not worth much more as opposed to scrapping the whole unit. We suggest taking computer towers apart if you have 10 or more.
  • TV’s & Monitors – TV’s may seem like a great grab, but not many scrap yards accept monitors and screens so it can be difficult to find a place that buys them. What you can do is snip the wire off the TV’s and also remove the copper yoke off the back of the TV. The copper yoke is a plastic cone with copper wire wrapped around the outside. You can remove the copper wire and expect to get paid a #2 copper wire price. Monitors from computers can have the wire cut off, but that is about it.
  • Microwaves – If you are looking to scrap a microwave, you can remove the electric motor, copper wire and low-grade board from the inside. We suggest taking these apart when you have them because the components are common items that you will get from it are common to other materials you will be picking up. If you don’t take your microwave apart, you will usually get a steel price for the item.
  • Washer/Dryer/Dishwasher – Large appliances are also a great find when you are just starting off with scrapping but knowing what to do with them can be difficult. If you have quite a few appliances (over 5), we suggest taking the items like sealed units, copper wire, tubing, and electric motors out from the back of them. From there you can scrap the items as a ferrous (steel/iron) price and separate the components into your different containers.
  • Refrigerators – While they may be big and heavy, fridges aren’t always worth a ton of money at the scrap yard. Usually, they can be scrapped for the steel value of them. However, if you want to remove the components from inside for some extra money that may be a good idea if you have a few of them. First, you have to be sure to get the freon removed from the refrigerator by a licensed HVAC contractor. Once it has been removed you can cut copper tubing and the sealed unit from the fridge.
  • Air Conditioner Units – Similar to refrigerators, AC units can be scrapped whole or they can be taken apart for components inside. The freon also has to be removed legally by an HVAC contractor and then you can take apart the remaining items. You will be able to remove the steel case, the copper tubing, sealed unit, electric motor, and the aluminum/copper fin coil. If you want to make some extra money, use a sawzall to cut the steel off the side of the fin and you can get a clean aluminum/copper fin price.