Nonferrous metals are a type of metal, including alloys, that don’t contain appreciable amounts of iron. They’re highly malleable, non-magnetic, and among the few materials that don’t degrade or lose their physical and chemical properties in the course of the recycling process. As a result, they can be recycled infinitely.
Some of the common nonferrous metals that we buy include stainless steel, high nickel alloys, aluminum, copper, brass, and precious metals.
Stainless steel—sometimes referred to as inox steel, or just inox—is a steel alloy that’s made with iron, chromium, nickel, carbon, and trace amounts of metals like manganese, tin, phosphorus, sulfur, and silicon. It has a higher resistance to corrosion, rust, and staining than regular steel.
Scrap stainless steel needs to be analyzed to determine the type, content, and quality. Recycled stainless steel also can’t contain any attachments or contaminants (i.e. it needs to be “clean”).
There are a number of different types of stainless steel, with each type dictating a unique price for scrap material. Some of the most common types of stainless steel that we buy include:
17-4 Stainless Steel – typically used in the aerospace and food industries, though you’ll also see it in surgical materials (like the screws that hold bone together).
300 Series Stainless Steel – this is the most common type of stainless steel. You’ll find 300 series stainless steel in kitchenware, appliances, automotive parts, and aerospace parts.
304 Stainless Steel – you’ll usually come across 304 stainless steel in kitchenware, machine shops, and exhaust systems. Some of the most common items we see with 304 stainless steel include coffee makers, kegs, medical equipment, ovens, patio grills, and racking.
310 Stainless Steel – often used in high temperature equipment such as welding filler wire, oil burner parts, and furnace parts. Usually contains iron, nickel, chromium, manganese, tin, phosphorus, and carbon.
316 Stainless Steel – you’ll typically find this type of stainless steel in the boat and food industries. Some of the more common parts with 316 stainless steel that we buy include springs, water filtration screens, boat fittings, food preparation equipment, and welding equipment. 316 Stainless steel is comprised of iron, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, and trace amounts of carbon, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, and silicon.
321 Stainless Steel – often used in furnace parts, aircraft exhaust manifolds, and spiral welded tubes for flues and burner pipes.
400 Series Stainless Steel – here’s where stainless steel can get tricky. 400 Series stainless steel doesn’t contain any nickel, and it has enough carbon content to make it magnetic, so it’s often mistaken for iron. You’ll need an analyzer to determine this type of stainless steel.
The easiest way to test if a material is stainless steel is to hold a magnet up to it. Other than the 400 series, the vast majority of stainless steel won’t be magnetic. That said, aluminum doesn’t have a magnetic pull either, so you’ll also need to judge the appearance. Dull, matte-colored metals are usually aluminum, while stainless steel tends to have more of a shine. Ultimately, you’ll need to use an analyzer to test the content.
Some of the most common stainless steel materials that we handle include:
Stainless steel breakage – must be at least 50% stainless steel with a small percentage of plastic and contaminants
Stainless steel sinks – many sinks have a steel ring around the bottom, so they are usually downgraded to a lower price
Stainless steel turnings – excess machine cuts, must be free of oil and steel shavings
Nickel is the base metal used in stainless steel and is particularly valuable for its outstanding corrosion resistance and high temperature resistance. Most of our customers come across high nickel alloys in stainless steel scrap, but you can sometimes find it in other alloys like Inconel (Inconel 792, Inconel 800, and Inconel 825), Monel, and Hastelloy (solids and turnings). An analyzer is required to determine the content and value of high nickel alloys.
Aluminum is a lightweight metal that’s malleable and easy to weld, machine, forge, and cast. It’s a low-strength metal, and it isn’t suitable for high-temperature environments. Aluminum tends to have a dull/matte silvery-white appearance.
To be recycled, aluminum scrap needs to be “clean,” meaning there is no dirt, glass, or contamination attached to the metal. Aluminum is often found in food/beverage cans, aircraft materials, kitchen utensils, cars, boats, railways, pistons, castings, window frames, kegs, foils, machine turnings, siding, transformers, radiators, rims, engine blocks, diesel tanks, and bumpers.
As with stainless steel, the value of aluminum is determined by the type and quality. Following are some of the most common types of aluminum that we purchase:
Aluminum #3 – mid-grade aluminum that is not considered breakage, but isn’t as clean as pure aluminum.
Aluminum 6061 – also known as aluminum clips, Aluminum 6061 is often used in machine shops to create new structures or items.
Aluminum 6063 – often used in architecture. Commonly found in sign frames, roofs, door frames, and window frames.
Aluminum Breakage – aluminum scrap with anywhere from 8% to 40% foreign attachments. This type of aluminum will be downgraded and is subsequently less valuable.
Aluminum Extrusions – can’t contain other aluminum alloys, and must be free of cardboard, paper, plastic, felt, iron attachments, zinc corners, and thermo-break / thermo-pane.
Aluminum Thermo-pane / Thermo-break– has plastic insulation running through the middle.
Aluminum Boats – need to have wood, foam, debris, and other contaminants removed for maximum value.
Aluminum Bumpers – must be free of steel, foam, plastic, and other attachments.
Aluminum Cans – must be free of liquid, plastic, tin, foil, and garbage. May be whole or crushed.
Aluminum Diesel tanks – the fuel tanks on diesel trucks are often made of aluminum. Be sure to cut a hole in the side and drain any fluids.
Aluminum Engine Block – you can find aluminum engine blocks in trucks, cars, and other vehicles. Be sure to clean off any oil and remove all plastic attachments.
Aluminum Litho –used in printing presses in the publication industry. Must be free of ink, plastic, paper, and other contaminants.
Aluminum Radiators – must be free of liquid, plastic, and steel attachments.
Aluminum Rims – remove the tire, dirt, lead wheel weights, and any other attachments.
Aluminum Siding – remove any steel nails and clean off any dirt, foam, or coating.
Aluminum Transformers – typically have aluminum windings surrounding a steel core, though they may have an outer case around the aluminum, too.
Aluminum Turnings – excess turnings from a machine shop. Must be free of oil and steel shavings.
Cast Aluminum – clean casted aluminum that’s free of any rubber, steel, or other attachments.
Aluminum Wire – remove the insulated cover along with any steel, plastic, or rubber. Must be clean.
Aluminum Motors – whole motors without any heavy steal attachments, loose iron, bases, or pumps.
Sheet Aluminum – can’t have any dirt, glass, steel, or plastic on the material.
Painted Aluminum – includes aluminum siding and window frames that have been painted.
Prepared Aluminum – you’ll find prepared aluminum at many home remodels and construction sites. The prepared aluminum will be cut to specific sizes and needs to be clean. Remove any steel or other attachments.
Copper is usually pretty easy to spot thanks to its iconic shade of red. It’s highly ductile, malleable, and works great as a conductor for heat and electricity. Copper is most commonly used in the electrical industry for wire and other conductors, and it’s a chief ingredient in brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc. You’ll also find copper in bearings, tubing, statutes, cartridge cases, and sheet roofing.
There are four grades of copper that determine the value and pricing for scrap recycling:
Bare Bright Copper – sometimes called “bright and shiny copper,” bare bright copper is the most valuable, highest-paying grade. Bare bright copper must be bare, unalloyed, uncoated, and free from any impurities, paint, signs of tarnishing, or oxidation. A negligible amount of patina on the copper is acceptable.
#1 Copper – to be considered #1 grade, the copper must be comprised of clippings, bus bars, commutator segments, or wire that’s a minimum of 1/16-inches in diameter. Clean copper tubing should qualify as #1 copper if it doesn’t have any solder, paint, insulation, fittings, or other materials. In either case, there should be few signs of corrosion, though trace amounts of oxidation on tubing is usually acceptable.
#2 Copper – this type of copper tends to have a somewhat dirty appearance. It may be comprised of miscellaneous unalloyed wire, pipe, or solid metal that continues to have a solder, paint, or other coating. The scrap should have 94% – 96% copper, and the bare wire insulation can be thinner than 1/16-inches in diameter. Oxidation is acceptable as long as it’s not excessive.
#3 Copper – this is the lowest grade for copper, and subsequently commands the lowest price. #3 Copper is usually fairly thin with a high level of solder, paint, tar, or other contaminants.
Copper is one of the most valuable scrap metals, so we deal with quite a bit of it. Following are some of the most common copper scrap items that we purchase:
#1 Bare Bright Copper Wire – bare, uncoated, unalloyed copper wire with no attachments, insulation, solder, or paint.
#1 Copper Tubing – bare, uncoated, unalloyed copper bus bar or pipe with no attachments.
#1 Flashing Copper – bare, uncoated, unalloyed copper with no tar, corrosion, paint, or other contaminants. Typically found in home décor and roofing.
#2 Copper Tubing – burnt copper, or copper with light tin coating, solder, or brass fittings attached to it.
#2/#3 Mix Copper – copper roofing and tubing that’s intermingled and has solder or paint.
#3 Copper with Tar – roofing copper with contaminants such as wood, heavy tar, or other attachments.
#3 Roofing Copper – copper roofing, flashing, or gutters with minimal tar, nails, wood, or other attachments.
Ballasts – found in lighting fixtures, usually has copper inside.
Clean Roofing Copper – copper roofing, flashing, or gutters with no tar or attachments
Copper Transformers – usually has a steel core surrounded by copper windings. May have an outer casing around the copper.
Copper Turnings – must be free of oil, aluminum, and steel.
Copper Yokes – often found on the back of television sets. Usually have a plastic cone around the copper wire.
Copper Electric Motors – whole motors without any heavy steel attachments, loose iron, bases, or pumps.
Elevator Wire – an insulated copper wire that’s typically used to power and run elevators. Usually has a heavy cloth insulation and a steel core that will need to be separated.
Brass is a metal alloy that’s made with copper and zinc. You’ll often hear brass characterized by the color, red, semi-red, or yellow, because the color indicates the copper to zinc ratio in the alloy. Most brass items are a shade of yellow due to a higher amount of zinc.
Red brass is often mistaken for bronze due to their similar hues. It can be difficult to differentiate between the two, but bronze usually has more of a dull-gold color with faint rings visible on the surface. Bronze and red brass both have a higher scrap value than yellow brass thanks to their higher copper content.
Brass is commonly used with mechanical components and plumbing fixtures, including water meters, faucets, and plumbing attachments. Some of the most common types of brass scrap that we purchase include:
Brass Hay Wire – from an EDM machine, usually clean or zinc-plated.
Brass Heater Cores – typically found in automobiles. Must remove steel attachments.
Brass Pipe – must be free of cast iron connections, solder, and any sediment (usually found on the inside).
Brass Radiators – remove steel sides and clean out any coolant.
Brass Shells – Must be free of steel, dirt, plastic, and residue. Remove primers.
Brass Turnings – excess shavings from a machine shop. Must be free of oil and steel shavings.
Plumber’s Brass – includes mixed brass castings, valves, taps, rod brass, and chrome-plated brass.
Rod Brass – new brass production and cutoffs from machine shops.
Rod Brass Turnings – excess turnings from a machine shop. Must be free of oil and steel.
Red Brass – free of steel and lead contamination.
Semi-Red Brass – commonly found on water meters.
Yellow Brass – chrome plated brass, rod brass, valves, taps, and mixed brass casings.
Precious metals like silver, gold, and platinum have always been valued as stores of wealth, and have historically been used in jewelry, coins, and decorative arts. Today, you can find precious metals in a variety of electronic, communications, and aerospace equipment, too.
To learn more about precious metal buying, please call us today.
The most common ferrous scrap metals include wrought iron, cast iron, carbon steel, and alloy steel. These metals are valued for their durability and tensile strength, though their high carbon content makes them more susceptible to rust when exposed to moisture, with the exception of wrought iron and stainless steel. The vast majority of ferrous metals are also magnetic, making them extremely useful for motor and electrical applications.
Carbon steel, also called structure steel, is a staple in construction projects, especially when building tall skyscrapers and long bridges that require a tremendous amount of structural integrity. Ferrous metals are also used to make tools, railroad tracks, automobiles, industrial piping, and shipping containers.
Ferrous metals make up the majority of recycled materials in the United States. Ferrous scrap materials typically come from manufacturing (new, prime, or prompt scrap) and end-of-life products (old or obsolete scrap). Obsolete scrap is often recovered from vehicles, ships, steel structures, railroad tracks, household appliances, and farm equipment.
Some of the common ferrous scrap items that we buy include steel, cast iron, auto casts, iron borings, and white goods.
Steel is a metal alloy consisting of iron and carbon that’s made by heating and melting iron ore in furnaces. The addition of carbon hardens the iron and makes it stronger than normal iron. Steel alloys become even stronger when other elements like nickel and chromium are introduced. Steel is widely used in manufacturing and construction.
The value of steel scrap metal is determined by the type and grade. Some of the most common types of steel that we purchase include:
#1 Steel – also known as #1 heavy melting steel (HMS) or #1 prepared scrap. This type of steel usually comes from contractors and construction sites. It doesn’t contain any galvanized or blackened steel, and it usually comes in set lengths. Scrap HMS should be prepared in pieces that are smaller than 60” x 24” and over ¼-inches thick.
#2 Steel – sometimes referred to as #2 HMS or #2 prepared scrap. This type of steel has a lighter gauge and doesn’t include light iron or sheet metal. #2 Steel is black and typically longer than #1 steel scrap.
Busheling – usually comes in steel sheets from machine shops and factories. Busheling scrap should be bright and shiny without any coatings or rust. It can be one of the top grades of steel if it’s clean and clear.
Steel Turnings – these are excess shavings from a machine shop, industrial facility, or fabricator. Steel shavings should be new production scrap smaller than 12 inches. Must be free of oil and other metal shavings, unpainted, and uncoated.
Plate & Structure (P&S) Steel – typically a product of major construction and demolition sites, and is sometimes referred to as construction scrap or demolition scrap. Includes structural steel from demolition scrap, steel gerters, channels, plates, angles, and prepared I-Beams. P&S Steel should be clean, dry, and prepared to less than 24 inches wide and 60-inches long.
Sheet Steel – sometimes referred to as shreddable steel. Typically comes from household appliances, also known as “white goods”, hot water heaters, and miscellaneous sheet steel items.
Mixed Clips – these are new production, galvanized and/or black steel clips, blanks, and stamping skeletons. Mixed clips can also include mandrelly wound slitter material and light gauge tubing with a maximum thickness of ¼-inches.
Painted Clips – new production painted steel clips, blanks, and stamping skeletons. Painted clips may include tubing, shelving, gauge racking, mandrelly wound slitter material, and light gauge tubing with a maximum thickness of ¼-inches.
Dealer Clips – mixed new and old steel scrap that’s obsolete, clean, black, galvanized, and painted, with a maximum thickness of ¼-inches.
Punchings & Plate Scrap – comprised of foundry-grade material that’s derived from the punching process, which is a metal forming process that uses a press to force a tool through a steel plate or sheet metal to create a hole. Punchings and plate scrap material includes punchings, stampings, plate scrap, and bar crops with no more than 0.5% phosphorus, Sulphur, or silicon. All materials should be cut down to less than 12-inches. Punchings and stampings should be at least 1/8-inch in thickness. If they’re under 6 inches in diameter, any gauge is allowable.
Railroad Scrap – includes railroad spikes couplers, knucklers, angle bars, rail joints, tie plates, track bolts and nuts, and steel wheels less than 42-inches in diameter.
Beam scraps –I-beams, H-beams, W-beams, universal beams (UB), rolled steel joists (RSJ), and double-T beams have an I- or H-shaped cross section. They’re usually made of structural steel and are commonly used in civil engineering and construction.
Cast iron is a hard, relatively brittle metal alloy made with iron and carbon. It can be readily cast in a mold and has a higher proportion of carbon than steel. Cast iron will typically appear rusty when it’s been exposed to the elements for a while, and it will break into pieces if you drop it from a sufficient height. Which is actually one of the best cast iron tests if you’re trying to figure out what type of metal you’ve got. Cast iron can come from a variety of scrap items including castings, coil, old water piping, machinery plates, fireplace grates, sewer plates, stoves, sinks, bath tubs, gates, and some radiators.
Auto Casts are perhaps the most common source of cast iron. They fetch the highest price when the transmission and any rubber or plastic attachments are removed. Auto casts that still have attachments are called unclean auto casts.