Why is #1 Bare Bright Priced Differently than #1 Copper Tubing?

In the scrap metal world, we all know the most prized metal is copper. Its excellent versatility and conductivity make it an essential piece of our everyday life, and as a result, it is a staple in nearly every industry. However, not all copper scrap is created equal, and understanding the differences can help you maximize your returns. The two most valuable types of copper scrap are #1 Bare Bright Copper Wire and #1 Copper Tubing. Even though they are both #1, Bare Bright still fetches a higher price. Why is that?

Why Are Bare Bright and #1 Tubing Different Prices?

Density and Melting Efficiency

One of the main reasons Bare Bright fetches a higher price than #1 Tubing is its density and melting efficiency once brought to a mill. Bare Bright is denser, meaning it contains more copper by weight than the same volume of copper tubing. When it comes to melting the copper, denser materials melt faster and more efficiently, allowing more copper to be processed in a shorter time. This makes Bare Bright more desirable to mills and smelters, increasing prices.

Purity and Contaminants

For any copper, purity plays a crucial role. Bare Bright is almost always the purest form of copper. Because it is typically covered by insulation, it is kept safe from harmful elements that could oxidize or tarnish the copper. The insulation also protects it from oils or other contaminants as well. On the other hand, #1 Tubing, while still very high quality regarding scrap, often contains slight impurities. This could include minor residues or attachments such as brass fittings, tin solder, or other metals, which lower the purity of the copper once melted.

Hidden Moisture Inside Tubing

Another factor contributing to the price difference is the potential for residual materials and hidden moisture in #1 Tubing. Tubing can sometimes contain small amounts of moisture or other materials hidden inside its hollow structure, especially when scrapped in residential and commercial applications often used for water or plumbing. These contaminants can affect the melting process’s efficiency and the recovered copper’s quality. In contrast, #1 Bare Bright is solid and generally free from these issues due to being covered in insulation for most of its shelf life. Many wires like Romex® also have a layer of paper insulation to further aid in moisture absorption and avoid damaging the wires underneath.

Market Demand and Usability

Depending on the yard or mill, the market demand will also influence the pricing for different types of copper. Some mills can utilize new production tubing as long as it has never been used and is free from contaminants, and they may pay a price similar to Bare Bright. However, this premium usually applies only to larger quantities, typically 20,000 lbs or more. For smaller amounts, the price disparity remains the same.

Separate Your Bare Bright and #1 Tubing!

Now, it should go without saying that you should sort between your Bare Bright and Tubing. For the various reasons listed above, you’ll nearly always get more for the wire than the tubing. When hauling any copper you find, you can throw it in different bins. Separating and cleaning your copper scrap will get you the best possible price for your materials.

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07/25/2024 12:56 pm GMT

So, next time you have a haul of copper scrap, take the time to sort and clean it properly. Doing so will contribute to a more efficient recycling process and put more money in your pocket.