For those who like to locate collect scrap metal and turn it in for a tidy sum, you may need to learn a few practicals from the pros. No matter how long you have been at it, there are certain universal truths that always apply. These five basic tips will save you quite a bit of time (and money). Take a few moments to master them, and your trips to the scrap yard will start paying you higher dividends.
1. Safety First
No matter what type of material you are searching for, it is critical that you take a few precautions. Injuries can vary in severity. For example: A cut from jagged metal or exposed wire can lead to all kinds of infections, whereas an ill-advised attempt to lift a heavy item can result in a crushed limb, and surgery. Often times, your desired item may need to be cut loose from surrounding debris. And simply digging around a heap of debris or trash can likewise expose you to all manner of hazards.
Make sure that you have a pair of thick work gloves when handling metal. Even with gloves, you must take care to see that the item you are attempting to recover isn’t too heavy, and that you can access it easily. You may need special tools to unbolt or otherwise free the item, and consider if you will need training to use certain tools in a safe manner. If an item is too heavy, make sure you have a helper (or suitable tool) to lift it, and the right vehicle to transport it in.
2. Keep a Magnet in Your Pocket
A small pocket magnet is an essential tool for any serious scrap metal recycler. A magnet will stick firmly to metals which are heavy in iron (ferrous metals), and less so to those that are not (non-ferrous metals). Lead, zinc, aluminum (and aluminum alloys), copper, and brass carry less of a magnetic charge, and your magnet will not stick as easily to them. These metals are more valuable to scrap dealers, so it’s in your interest to grab them, even if you don’t know exactly what kind of metal you may have. You can always identify your materials later.
Meanwhile, ferrous-based metals such as steel and steel alloys are simply not worth as much as non-ferrous metals. If your magnet sticks to an item firmly, it’s a good indication that its metal is rich in iron. Feel free to salvage it; just take care to learn what kind of metal you have, and how much it’s worth.
3. Prepare/separate your Materials
This step is essential. When you arrive at the recycling center, they will usually not allow you an opportunity to sort your materials. They would rather skip over you in line and assist those who came prepared. You must sort your materials ahead of time in order to get full value for them. And to do that, you have to know what materials you have.
Besides sorting, prepping materials ensures that you will get full value for them. Much of the material you identify for scrapping purposes will be attached to other items, and you may need special tools to separate those materials you wish to recycle. Drills for removing screws, wire strippers, and saws are some basic tools for separating industrial materials. Many of these tools are straightforward, but it may take some coaching and practice to use them efficiently.
4. Understand the Value of your Parts
This tip is basically self-explanatory. If you are unable to identify the type of materials, or cannot accurately assess their value in the market, then you are in the wrong business, plain and simple. Take a trip to a recycling plant, and talk to the employees to discover more about materials you intend to recycle. Learning methods for quickly identifying various kinds of metal will save you a ton of time once you are out in the field.
5. Establish a Good Reputation with Scrap Yards
Some scrappers overlook this last, critical tip. Nobody likes an abrasive person, and scrap yard workers have a tough enough day coping with the headache of sorting through tons of heavy metal. Remember — scrap yards want your materials! You’re doing them a favor by finding materials for them. There’s simply no reason to give them grief. Treat them right, and they will pay you in kind.