What is Clean Aluminum Scrap?

Our yard has had the privilege of talking to many scrappers and seeing many different materials firsthand. Over the years, an item that has consistently been a talking point with clients and fellow recyclers is clean aluminum scrap. We’ve been asked countless times to shed light on what it is, how to grade it, and where to find some common items containing it.

How Scrap Yards Grade Clean Aluminum?

Clean Aluminum Wire - scrap metal prices

Unlike its friend “Dirty Aluminum,” Clean aluminum scrap refers to aluminum materials processed to remove impurities, contaminants, and often other metals. This “cleaning” process ensures that the aluminum maintains its integrity and can be efficiently recycled without compromising its inherent qualities. This also means a better price at the scale when grading your material.

Examples of Clean Aluminum

Clean aluminum scrap encompasses various forms of aluminum separated from any elements that could hinder its recycling process. Materials that comprise pure aluminum include:

  • Household Aluminum: Items such as lawn chairs are great examples of an item that will start as a dirty grade, but if you remove extraneous plastic, fabric, or other metals, you can typically get an upgraded price.
  • Aluminum Siding and Window Frames: Buildings often feature aluminum siding and window frames that can be recycled into new construction materials. Removing paint, glass, and other contaminants ensures the aluminum maintains its value.
  • Automotive Components: Clean aluminum scrap can originate from discarded automotive parts like engine blocks, transmission housings, and rims. These components can be carefully prepared to eliminate oil, dirt, or other residues – otherwise, you may be graded for dirty aluminum.
  • Industrial Components: Various industrial components, such as machinery parts and equipment, can contribute to the clean aluminum scrap stream after being cleaned and separated from non-aluminum elements.
  • Insulated Wire and Cable: Typically found in some residential and commercial electrical applications. Separating any steel core that may be running alongside your clean aluminum wire and stripping any coatings and insulation will help your cause, too.

Can I clean aluminum for a better scrap price?

Short answer: yes. You can clean aluminum for a better scrap price, but knowing what your scrap yard looks for is important.

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Some scrap yards will take 10-15% of non-aluminum attachments – wood, steel screws, plastic, etc. – and grade them as clean aluminum. While, other scrap yards will require 0% of other materials to be attached to the aluminum.

Your best option would be to find a scrap yard in your area, call them, and describe your aluminum and where it’s from. They should be able to give you a price and grading idea of what they are looking for to pay you a clean aluminum price at the scale.

Remember: The less sorting and separating the scrap yard has to do, the better pricing and grading your will typically get.

When it comes to clean aluminum, remember that meticulous preparation is key. By separating aluminum from its unwanted companions, such as coatings, labels, and contaminants, you pave the way for higher-quality recycled materials that command better prices.