This month, we explore one of the most common metals/elements, which is also one of the most abundant resources found on Earth; IRON. Every month the iScrap App Team explores a metal and everything about it, from its origin, to how it’s used, where it comes from, and how to scrap it. Want to learn more about other metals? You can always reference our metal guide and also read about other Metals of the Month Highlights. Want to learn even more? You can Subscribe on YouTube to watch our videos, listen to podcasts, and tune in weekly for Weekly Live Reports.
What Is Iron?
It’s What Makes Steel!
Iron is a brittle, hard substance and the most abundant of all metals. Iron is the 4th most common element found in the Earth’s crust, and Earth’s core is thought to be composed of iron. It is also abundant in the sun and stars.
Iron is crucial to the survival of living organisms: In plants, it plays a role in chlorophyll production. In humans, it’s a component of hemoglobin–a protein in blood that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues in the body.
Used To Make Steel…90% of all metal that is refined these days is iron–most of it used to make steel–an alloy of iron and carbon.
It has a history…Archeologists estimate that people have been using iron for more than 5,000 years. Some of the most ancient iron fell from the sky. In a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Archeological Science, researchers examined ancient Egyptian iron beads that date to around 3200. They found that they were made from iron meteorites.
It’s A Ferrous Metal…There are non-ferrous (non-magnetic) and ferrous (magnetic) metals. For example, iron (and steel, more on that later) are magnetic.
Where does Iron come from?
Iron is mostly obtained from minerals hematite and magnetite– iron is made by heating those two minerals in a blast furnace and a form of carbon called “coke” and limestone.
Iron on Earth is extracted from iron ore (iron mining). The job of ironwork is to remove as much of the rock and other grit as possible while leaving the iron behind (disposable materials do not merely surround iron–it’s mixed right in with it).
Iron was technically made from the “Big Bang.” Iron is considered a heavy element, and elements of this type can only be created in catastrophic “star death” events called supernovae
How easy it to recycle it?
Very easy to recycling–most scrap yards accept iron. Steel and iron are the most recycled materials in the world due in part to the opportunity to recover large structures and ease of reprocessing.
There is an iron market; however, it doesn’t pay much unless you have thousands of pounds of it.
Where are common places to find Iron Scrap?
Larger Scale – With these larger scale items in mind, you would probably need contracts with specific larger firms to scrap. They will need to bring the appropriate equipment and dumpsters to move materials.
- Construction–Commercial and residential
- Agriculture- farming equipment: tractors, plows, combines, milking equipment.
- Power generation
- National Defense- armaments, military vehicles, ships
Smaller Scale Everyday Items – With these smaller items in mind, you could probably go to town-wide garage days and yard sales to find these iron items. Bring your truck or trailer along with you to move some of these smaller items.
- Appliances- fridges, sinks, stoves, dishwashers, laundry machines, toasters, etc. (made of stainless steel, but stainless steel is 98% iron)<–mention that stainless steel will have its own month
- Cutlery and cookware
- BBQ grills
- Hammers and nails
- Automotive parts
- Bike locks
- Gym equipment
- Gold clubs
- Plumbing-galvanized steel pipes with a rust-resistant zinc coating
How should you sort/separate Iron Scrap?
When you are looking to scrap your iron items at your local scrap yard, there are a few common grades you’re going to want to sort your materials for the best pricing. Below are pictures and further information on what the different grades are.
Tips for making the most money on scrap Iron?
Not Best Prices – Iron doesn’t necessarily have the best scrap value, so collecting thousands of pounds worth of steel before cashing in is suggested.
Got Storage? – Iron/Steel scrap will be a bulky material, so if you don’t have the space to store it regularly to make more money from it.
Use Your Magnet – When you are scrapping, you should always have a magnet on you to check materials. Iron & steel is magnetic, so if it sticks, it will be steel or iron.
PRO TIP: Don’t Move It Twice – Because you’re going to be putting in more labor by moving these bigger items, and they are not worth a lot of money in scrap, it would be a good idea to immediately scrap the material once you load it on your truck. *Think About It* You load material onto your truck or trailer, then bring it to your storage area, unload, and then reload the truck later on? That doesn’t sound like a good idea.
- Difference Between Non-Ferrous & Ferrous Metals
- Can You Recycle A Cast Iron Stove?
- Why Do Scrap Yards Have Weight Requirements For Steel?