Getting Started with Scrap Metal Recycling, What To Look For

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 challenging for beginners to find good information to clarify exactly where to start. The iScrap App team has years of experience in the scrap industry and lives and breathes it daily. We can list some everyday items below that any scrapping beginner usually comes across when starting. Some of these items can and should be taken apart for the components inside, but it depends on several factors.

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How Do You Get Started Scrapping?

The old cliche, “Time is money,” applies to much of what scrapping is about. If you take extra time to take items apart, you must 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.

What’s your worth? Maybe you are worth $20 per hour to start, but as you become more efficient, the ins and outs of scrapping your worth per hour can climb.

That is an important thing to remember when you are first starting, and remember, if you are new at something, you may make a few mistakes at first, but that’s how you learn.

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What Scrap Materials Should You Take Apart?

  • 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 you won’t get the top price. Also, it can take a reasonable 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 – Similar to electric motors, sealed units are heavy and have copper wire inside. However, they are encased in solid steel outside casing, making opening difficult. 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 are becoming more common in the scrap yards because many people are switching to laptops. Computer towers are easy to take apart, but you will lose money if you don’t have many and take the components out. By removing the RAM, motherboard, hard drive, low-grade boards, and power supplies, the individual components are not worth much more than scraping the whole unit. We suggest taking computer towers apart if you have ten or more.
  • TVs & Monitors – TVs may seem like a great grab, but not many scrap yards accept monitors and screens, so it can be challenging to find a place that buys them. You can snip the wire off the TVs and 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 want to scrap a microwave, remove the electric motor, copper wire, and low-grade board from the inside. We suggest taking these apart when you have them. The components are everyday items you will get from them and are pretty standard while scrapping. 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 great to find when scraping, but knowing what to do with them can be difficult. If you have several appliances (over 5), we suggest taking 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 containers.
  • Refrigerators – While they may be big and heavy, fridges aren’t always worth much 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 extra money, that may be a good idea if you have a few. 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 the copper tubing and the sealed unit from the fridge.
  • Air Conditioner Units – Similar to refrigerators, AC units can be scrapped whole or taken apart for components inside. The freon must also be removed legally by an HVAC contractor, and then you can take apart the remaining items. You can remove the steel case, the copper tubing, the sealed unit, the 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.
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