How Do Scrap Yards Work?

So you may be wondering how scrap yards work, what the process of recycling scrap metal includes, what to do when you go to a scrap yard, and what happens when you leave a scrap yard. Below we have some of the basic ways and expectations to have when you visit your local scrap yard.


rroutsideThe people and businesses that frequently visit the scrap yards are those in the trade industries. Some of them may be electricians, contractors, plumbers, demolition companies, construction companies, manufacturers, governments, public transit companies, and others that may produce or work with metals. Some of these metals include aluminum, copper, steel, iron, brass, stainless steel, and many others. Some other customers of scrap yards are homeowners that may have been doing some renovating like a new bathroom or kitchen and they have items to recycle like appliances, pipe, wires, and other materials that contain metals.

There are also some junk and recycling companies that specialize in picking up smaller amounts of metals and other materials for garbage. Many times, these companies have one or a few employees in small dump trucks driving around the area and doing “junk pickups” from homes, businesses, and other establishments. These “scrappers” will often have materials that need to be delivered to both a scrap yard to recycle the metal and a local dump for garbage. You can see the difference between garbage and metals pickups here.


strip-copper-wireThose industry professionals and homeowners that are visiting the scrap yard are bringing those various metals and materials to the scrap yarsd to get paid for the weight of the metals they have. Scrap yards buy metals for recycling from the private sector (businesses), governments, and public (contractors/homeowners) to process the materials and send them to the mills to be turned into new metal products. The price of the metals are dependent on the weight of the material and the current price of the market which will discuss later on.

There are many types of metals that scrap yards accept at their locations but generally they are categorized in three types; ferrous, non-ferrous, and electronics or “e-scrap”. Ferrous metals are common metals like steel, iron, and Cast Iron. Ferrous metals also will always stick to a magnet and are generally priced at a lower value. In contrast, non-ferrous metals are mostly non-magnetic and are priced at a higher value. Some of these metals include copper, aluminum, brass, stainless steel (non-magnetic), and Bronze. E-scrap metals are commonly found from, you guessed it, in electronics, and contain precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum. Some of these materials are included in computer towers, circuit boards, harddrives, and Power Supplies. All of these metals that are commonly sold and recycled at scrap yards can be found on our metal guide.


Often times scrap yards are located in and around urban and suburban areas. Because the industry heavily relies on the trade industry, that means a few things like population, construction, and demolition will be a common denominator. Many times cities like New York City, Chicago, Detroit, and Dallas will have dozens of scrap yards in and around the city. Some scrap yard companies may have multiple locations in a regional area to serve customers in a wider range.

scrap yard workersIf you aren’t looking for a scrap yard, you usually won’t see one. They aren’t located in your typical business lots or strip malls. Because of the materials being loaded and unloaded at their location, the yards need space for storage of materials, equipment, and machines. Therefore, scrap yards are often located off side roads and in industrial-type locations. In the major cities, many times scrap yards are located near the ports to ensure quicker and easier transportation and movement of materials on trucks, ships, and trains. You can use the iScrap App to locate scrap yards in your area in the US and Canada.


Depending on the frequency of materials being collected, some companies in the trade industry have enough scrap metal to visit their yards daily, weekly, or monthly. Some other companies get containers or pick up services at their location or job site, instead of brining it to the yard themselves. These pickups can be scheduled daily, weekly, or monthly. For the most part scrap yards are open from Monday-Friday around regular hours like 7am-5pm. These hours obviously change depending on the location and business. Some scrap yards are open on weekends or even 24/7. You can look up hours of operation for Premium scrap yards listed on the iScrap App.

The busy time of year for scrap metal recycling is the spring and summer time. Usually at this time the construction and demolition companies are beginning new projects that will produce new scrap metal to be recycled. Also homeowners will be doing home renovations and cleanups during the nicer weather which will also be during this time. Those that are bringing the metal into the yards will often stop in between jobs during the day or at the end of the day.


ForecastingStockMarketPrices-500x332Scrap yards have a certain operation that differ from dumps or regular municipal recycling centers. Scrap yards need to sort and weigh your materials before determining how much money they will pay you for the commodities. Once they separate various metals and weigh them, they will price the materials differently. Based on the trade market (related to the stock market) the scrap yard will pay you their current price (different from yard to yard) for that material. They determine their current prices and can often times change depending on the market conditions. It is common to check the prices with your scrap yard before going in. You can look up scrap prices with the iScrap App.

Scrap yards usually will not pick up materials from homeowners or smaller quantities of material because of the costs of operation. It is not cost-efficient for scrap yards to send a truck on the road to only pick up a few hundred pounds of steel or other materials. With the cost of transportation, the truck driver, and the delivery to the yard, the scrap yard may not even break even with the amount of money they make on the scrap if it is only a few hundred pounds. When scrap yards do make industrial scrap metal pick ups and bring the materials back to their yard, they will usually ship the materials to larger scrap yards or processing plants or mills, which will melt the metals down and turn them into new metal products.

The information above are the basics of how scrap yards work and what is involved in them. If you have questions or want to hear some more details, be sure to ask below or shoot us an email at [email protected]. We hope you learned something today and you use the iScrap App soon to find your scrap yard in your area and look up their information.

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