The Basics of Eco-Friendly Scrap Metal Salvaging

The summer inevitably brings with it some hot, humid days, rainstorms, backyard barbecues  and evening baseball games. For thousands of families across the country, the warm weather signals the time of year when you might be moving. For offices, the summer offers a few months when the physical move can take place. While it can be a daunting task to collect all of your belongings, load them on a truck, and then unload them in a new destination, the moving experience doesn’t have to be all blood, sweat and tears. In fact, moving can be an opportunity to organize, get rid of the excess junk you don’t need, and even help serve a greater good in the process. 
The benefits of recycling your scrap metal are fairly straightforward, and with a bit of know-how, you’ll be well on your way.

Why recycle metals?
There are many types of metals in the world, and each has it’s own value and properties. When recycled, new metals can be produced with vastly less carbon emissions. In the case of aluminum, for example, recycling saves 80% of the energy needed to make it. Savings from recycling translate to savings on the cost of production, which helps the US remain competitive in metal exporting markets around the world. 
Another simple reason to recycle the scrap from your junk is to limit extraction of metals in their raw form from drilling and mining. The potential and realized consequences of extensive drilling are hard to ignore – high carbon emissions, loss of natural habitats, and potential pollution to name a few.
Common Recyclable Metals, and Where They Can Be Found:
  •  Copper – Copper, a non-ferrous metal, can be found in many appliances and machines, and was the first metal ever used by humans more than 10,000 years ago. It is reddish orange in hue, though when it rusts it takes on a shade of green. It can be found in:
    • electrical wiring for it’s excellent conduction ability
    • air conditioners 
    • various types of plumbing pipes 
  •  Aluminum – While less valuable than copper in its raw form, aluminum is found is many places around the home and the office, and, as previously mentioned, saves 80% of the energy needed to produce it when recycled. In use since the 1800’s, aluminum is abundant in building and construction. Aluminum, which dents easily, weighs one third as much as copper and steel. It can be found in:
    • siding
    • roofing
    • gutters
    • window frames
    • light bulbs
    • door knobs
    • refrigerators 
    • phone lines
  •  Iron – Iron, an essential element of nature, is dense and usually magnetic. It is one of the most common elements on the planet. While silver-gray in its fresh form, iron corrodes rather easily compared to other metals, rusting to an orange, red-tinted color. Combined with Nickel, iron is used to make many alloy metals, like steel. Around the home, iron is typically found in:
    • older, heavier wares like stove-tops
    • fireplaces
    • cast-iron skillets
    • old door handles
    • hinges, nails
    • many types of hand tools (saws, drills, hammers, etc.)
  •  Stainless Steel – Stainless, or corrosion-resistant, steel, is 100% recyclable. It can be found in many industrial applications, such as on cars, in bridges, and in buildings, but more humbly serves around the house. Light-weight and shining silver in color, stainless steel serves many practical purposes, and is abundant, therefore it isn’t worth much at the scrap yard in small amounts. It is found in:
    • washers and dryers
    • kitchen appliances 
    • on lamps, tables, or other shiny, well-made products
    • expensive cutlery
    • trash bins
    • swivel chairs
    • tables
    • other office furniture
What are the risks of improper disposal?
The risk of improper disposal of metals relates mostly to certain heavy metals – Lead, mercury, nickel, gold, cadmium – which when exposed to humans at high levels can be potentially toxic. These metals are found in 
  • computers
  • batteries
  • the paint of older houses (in the case of lead)
 Be sure to dispose of batteries and computers in a safe manner- don’t throw them in the trash to be placed in a landfill.
What now?
The reasons to recycle your scrap metals are compelling, and can be lucrative. If you have an old appliance that is still working, think about selling or donating it before you scrap it for parts. Likewise with electronics, schools and non-profits are always looking for working equipment, even if you are convinced it is too old to use. When handled by professionals in an organized, thoughtful manner, the cleaning out of old junk can be a therapeutic, revitalizing project. One that let’s you enjoy the hot summer just a little bit more, help contribute to a healthier planet, and maybe puts some cash in your pocket.

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