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 are some basic ways and expectations when visiting your local scrap yard.

Who Come To Scrap Yards?


The people and businesses frequently visiting 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 who 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 who may have been renovating, like a new bathroom or kitchen, and they have items to recycle, like appliances, pipes, wires, and other materials containing metals.

Some junk and recycling companies specialize in picking up smaller amounts of metals and other materials for garbage. Often, 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 must be delivered to a scrap yard to recycle the metal and a local dump for garbage. You can see the difference between garbage and metal pickups here.

What Metals Are Brought To Scrap Yards?


Those industry professionals and homeowners visiting the scrap yard bring those various metals and materials to the scrap yard to get paid for the weight of the metals they have. Scrap yards buy metals for recycling from the private sector (businesses), governments, and the 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 depends on the material’s weight and the market’s current price, which will be discussed later.

There are many types of metals that scrap yards accept at their locations, but generally, they are categorized into 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, 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, hard drives, and Power Supplies. All these metals commonly sold and recycled at scrap yards can be found in our metal guide.

Where Are Scrap Yards Located?

Often, 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 common denominators. Cities like New York City, Chicago, Detroit, and Dallas often 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 workers

You usually won’t see one if you aren’t looking for a scrap yard. They aren’t located in your typical business lots or strip malls. Because the materials are being loaded and unloaded at their location, the yards need space for storing materials, equipment, and machines. Therefore, scrap yards are often located off side roads and in industrial-type locations. In the major cities, scrap yards are often 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.

When Do Scrap Yards Operate?

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 bringing them to the yard themselves. These pickups can be scheduled daily, weekly, or monthly. Scrap yards are primarily open from Monday to Friday around regular hours, like 7 am to 5 pm. 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 bringing the metal into the yards will often stop between jobs during the day or at the end of the day.

How Are Scrap Prices Determined?


Scrap yards have a certain operation that differs 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. They will price the materials differently once they separate and weigh various metals. 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 change depending on the market conditions. It is expected 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 operation costs. It is not cost-efficient for scrap yards to send a truck on the road to pick-up only 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 make industrial scrap metal pick-ups and bring the materials back to their yard, they usually ship them to larger scrap yards, processing plants, or mills, which will melt the metals down and turn them into new metal products.

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