The Scrap Truth About CBM – Copper Bearing Material – and What To Do With It!

Have you ever wondered what all the extra bits of copper you have may be graded by the yard after you’ve already sorted through all your favorite Bare Bright and #1 Copper Tubing? Let’s talk about the unsung heroes of the scrap world—Copper Bearing Materials (CBMs). You might be tossing them in the scrap pile without a second thought, but this blog will break down what they are, where to find them, and whether you should spend time preparing them for your local scrapyard. So, grab your magnet, and let’s dive in!

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What Exactly Makes Up Copper Bearing Materials?

What exactly are CBMs? In simple terms, they are materials that serve as the host for copper, the metal that every scrapper wants to get their hands on. CBMs are a general term for any item with copper inside. However, you will likely notice that most yards with a price for CBMs have this price much lower than the standard rate for wire or tubing.

Why is that?

Many yards use “CBM” as a general grade for scrap materials that often contain significant contaminants. This can be in the form of two or more other metals, large amounts of plastic, etc.

When comparing CBMs to other materials, it’s common to view Stainless Breakage or Aluminum Breakage as similar types of scrap. These are common scrap metals that are further contaminated by various metals, plastics, and other non-metal items.

What Price Should I Expect for Copper Bearing Materials?

CBMs can be a general name for a wide variety of everyday objects. Since that is the case, the pricing for these types of items can vary wildly depending on the yard and their definition.

Generally speaking, expect to receive prices around $0.15-0.30/lb. You can think of this pricing as something similar to a transformer or motor. They are an item that, while containing copper, has a bunch of other materials you’ll have to sort through to get it.

Common Examples of Copper Bearing Materials

Let’s delve into the specifics. What are the common examples of these copper-laden treasures that might be hiding in plain sight in your scrap pile?

  • Electronics: When pulling apart various e-scrap items, there will invariably be a lot of plastic, motors, and aluminum. There will also usually be trace amounts of copper and brass in the form of small wires, pin ends, etc.
  • Power Strips/ Cabling: While trace bits of copper are left from the cords, there are often large plastic shells or aluminum coverings with small brass ends, making cleaning and separating the copper quite difficult.
  • Radiators: Look beyond the surface; radiators and heating/cooling components harbor valuable copper underneath the aluminum or steel.
  • Ballasts: Found in lighting fixtures, these usually have a steel outer casing but contain a small amount of copper inside. We typically don’t recommend separating these.
  • Motors: While these are often made of steel, the guts of these units typically contain a decent amount of copper wire.

Suggested Reading: How To Clean #2 Copper Scrap Into #1 Copper

Should You Clean Your Copper Bearing Materials?

“Is it worth spending hours cleaning these CBMs, or should I turn them in as is?” It’s a classic dilemma for scrappers. The time invested in cleaning might not always translate to a significant boost in earnings at the scrap yard. Time is money, after all! Many of these CBM items often get sent overseas as the labor cost to disassemble these are far cheaper. Oftentimes, they also have different sorting tools and processes to get all the metals out.

Consider this when going through your piles while stripping the insulation off wires, removing ends from cables, and disassembling smaller motors. While it might seem worthwhile, the time spent might outweigh the extra financial gain at the scrap yard. Some materials are better off turned in as a whole, letting the yards handle the work and the time involved in cleaning such materials.