Washers, dryers, computers, TVs, printers, VCRs, DVD players, air conditioners, refrigerators, and power tools all harbor a secret. Buried within them is metal. Even if it’s no longer working, you can find valuable treasure within and sell that treasure for cold, hard cash. This is the practice of metal scrapping, a fun and exciting hobby that allows grown-ups to go on a real live treasure hunt!

Safety first!

Because metal pieces can sometimes be sharp, it’s best to have a pair of cut-resistant gloves. You may find a dust mask, steel-toed boots, or a back brace to be useful. For beginners, it’s best to avoid refrigeration or air conditioning units, as they contain freon, a dangerous chemical requiring specialized disposal.

The scrapping workshop

It’s best to keep your work area clean and free of clutter. Small pieces of metal and plastic can easily become mixed in a cluttered workspace. Your workspace should have good ventilation, good lighting, and comfortable seating.

Plastic paint buckets provide excellent storage for scrap material, although e-scrap (scrap from computers) is usually smaller and may need smaller bins. You’ll usually want one bin for copper, one for aluminum, one for ferrous materials, and one bin for motherboards or other computer equipment. If you’re specializing in e-scrap, get a complete list from your local scrap yard or recycling service to determine how best to sort it.

Identifying metals

The most common metals encountered in scrapping include copper, aluminum, stainless steel, and iron. Aluminum and stainless steel look similar in appearance – usually silver or chrome in color – but stainless steel can be picked up with a magnet. Copper is generally a dark gold color, although some aluminum may be painted with a copper color. New iron may look like stainless steel, but older iron tends to be dark brown of black, and it’s also picked up with a magnet. Scrappers may also encounter brass and even gold in their scrapping adventures!

Breaking down appliances and electronics

Because there are so many different types of appliances and electronics, it’s impossible to concisely explain how to break down everything. Video tutorials can be found on YouTube and other websites that help to identify the most efficient way to break down most appliances and electronics.

To the scrapyard!

Once you have your scrap metal, you can plan your first trip to the local scrapyard. Make a phone call to a few scrapyards, ask a few questions, and choose the yard that seems to be the friendliest. When you get to the scrapyard, the employees will help you load your scrap onto the scale for weighing. They’ll give you a weight ticket and send you to the payment window, where the yard will pay you according to their policies. Always bring a small toolkit and your safety gear to the yard with you! Sometimes the employees will point out a simple thing that could earn you more money, and you may need to remove a piece on the spot to get the maximum value.

Metal scrappers serve a valuable purpose in modern society. By removing precious metals from what other people see as garbage, they’re helping to keep heavy metals out of landfills. When these metals are stored in landfills, they leach into the water supply and can build to toxic levels, so metal scrappers help to protect the environment and aquatic ecosystems. Metal scrapping can be a fun way to bring in some extra cash, turning one man’s trash into your very own treasure!

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