Avoid These 3 Scrap Metal Recycling Mistakes

Scrap metal recycling can be a great way to make extra money. You're helping someone else up by picking up their unwanted items, you're helping the planet out by keeping metal trash out of the landfills and making sure that it goes to good use, and you get to pocket some cash for your trouble. What's not to like? But, as with anything else, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about recycling scrap metals, and making a mistake could cost you. Here are a few scrap metal mistakes that you'll want to avoid on your way to making some extra money.

Not Separating Your Materials

The best strategy for leaving the scrap metal yard with a decent chunk of change is to wait until you have a big haul of metal and take it all to the scrap yard at once. When you do this, you're liable to accumulate several different types of metal. A bag of aluminum cans here, some copper wire there, some steel plumbing fixtures elsewhere – after a while, it all adds up.

The scrap yard most likely won't let you separate the materials right there at the gate. When you do that, you slow down their progress and hold up other customers behind you. Many scrap yards will let you hand them a haul of mixed metals – the problem is, they'll pay all of it at the rate of the least valuable metal. So, if you have a mix of cheap aluminum and valuable copper pipes, you'll get paid as if it were all cheap aluminum. Get the most money back by separating the different types of metals before you head to the scrap yard. Then you can get paid for each type of metal at the right price, and you'll get the most value for your labor.

Not Prepare Your Metals

In addition to sorting your metals into different categories, it's important to prepare them for recycling as much as possible. That means cleaning them and separating the metals from non-metallic items like glass, wood, or plastic.

If you don't take the time to prepare your metals properly, you could end up losing money on them. Some scrapyards have a special "shredder rate" for materials that are mixed with non-metallic items. You'll still get paid for them, but it will be considerably less than you would make if you'd removed the metal from the non-metallic items. Many scrap yards will simply reject any metal that is mixed with trash or contains liquid, which means that you'll have to turn around, take it home, and clean it up before you can get paid – it's much more time efficient to just prepare the metals ahead of time. Pay special attention to insulation on copper wires. Most scrap yards will accept this, but they'll pay you a lot more if you remove the insulation first. Since copper is one of the most valuable recyclable metals, your wallet will thank you for paying attention to that detail.

Recycling Metals Illegally

The one mistake that you always want to avoid is trying to recycle metals that you aren't legally allowed to have or recycle. You can avoid a lot of trouble simply by making sure that you have permission to take the items that you plan to recycle. Don't take an appliance set out by the road or comb through an empty construction site in search of discarded pipes unless the property owner has given you permission. If you luck into a particularly large supply of something valuable, like copper, you may want to get written permission from the owner, in case the scrap yard asks to see it.

Be careful with certain items, like air conditioners or catalytic converters. Window air conditioning units should have the Freon removed from them before they go to the scrap yard. If you have a few air conditioning units and the Freon hasn't been removed, the scrap yard staff might begin to believe that you're stealing them. Catalytic converters contain valuable metals, but in some locations, the laws prohibit anyone other than licensed mechanics from recycling them, in an effort to prevent theft. Check your local laws to make sure that you're allowed to recycle your catalytic converter in your area.

As long as you avoid these mistakes, you'll find that recycling scrap metals is a great way to earn extra money for the holidays or for that vacation that you're overdue for. The more recycling you do, the easier it will get and the more money you'll make.