Tips For Getting Rid Of Scrap Metal

3 Jun

scrap_metalKevin likes to tell people it’s a great way to get fresh air and exercise. “Of course there’s also the money,” he adds. “Though, it’s not a lot of money, even when gold turns up. But I enjoy it,” he says with a laugh.

Kevin is a “scrapper,” and he walks miles, nearly every day, hunting for discarded metal. It sounds like a third world occupation for the grievously poor, but thousands of people in the United States make money from scrap metal recycling. Some, like Kevin, who says he retired from “government work,” but only smiles enigmatically when pressed to elaborate, pursue scrapping to supplement their income. For others, scrapping can offer an income to live on.

Scrapping relies on industrial demands for raw materials and the tendency of civilization to dispose of worn out technology. Currently, copper has a value of around $3.00 a pound. Even a truck load of old bicycles and bed frames can bring $100.00. “I’ve got a truck,” Kevin says, “a ratty old El Camino, you know, a ‘cowboy Cadillac’. If you’ve got scrap metal in your backyard I’ll bring my truck over and haul it away for free. You could maybe throw in a six-pack of beer sort of as a tip because even the empties are worth money.” Kevin is right about the beer. An estimated 67 billion cans are sold every year. With aluminum worth about 40 cents a pound Kevin figures he needs roughly 75 empties to get a dollar at the scrap yard. “I know back roads where I can pull 1,000 empties out of the weeds every couple of weeks.”

Besides lone scrappers like Kevin, there are companies who will haul away your scrap. Some will charge you for the service, but others make their profits at the scrap yard.

For specialized scrap there are companies that pay you to ship scrap to them. Specialized scrap includes magnets and electronic components which can contain iridium, neodymium, etc. China has sought to control supplies of what are known as “rare earths” and this has driven up prices. Precious metals are also in demand which is why scrappers like Kevin are on the lookout for anything with a circuit board. “Circuit boards contain small amounts of platinum, gold and silver,” he says. “Just hair-thin plating, but when gold went over $1000 a bucket of old pocket calculators became valuable. I don’t remove the gold myself. That requires scary chemicals like cyanide. I just throw the circuit boards I find in a box. When I have 40 or so pounds worth I ship it off to a company who process out the good stuff and then send me a check.”