How To Recycle Metal: A Tale Of Woe

After the fourth customer in about a month told me to put their stuff in “the pile over there that they are planning to take to the metal recycler,” I had to find out if it really was worth a trip to the metal recycler.

You are probably not gonna like the answer, but you decide.

First, I gathered up all the metal bits from a recent garage organizing job.  The client wanted to chuck it all, but in the name of researching metal recycling, he agreed to let me take his trash.  Lucky me.

organizing metal for recycling

We gathered up things that I would not have previously thought about recycling:

  • Wire coated metal closet shelves and brackets
  • car brake pads
  • metal outlet covers
  • electronics cords
  • the side panels of an old computer
  • electric oven heating element (not sure what the story was on this)

Along with obvious recycling candidates:

  • license plates
  • nuts and bolts
  • keys
  • metal curtain rod
organizing metal for recycling
Got wires and cords? Recycle them.

Locating an area recycler is not so easy.  These are relatively small businesses that don’t Google well, but there are metal recyclers in Phoenixville, West Chester, Philadelphia, and surrounding areas.  Definitely call before heading out to be sure they take small amounts and to check their hours and processes.

When I arrived at my chosen recycler, a helpful employee went through my box of goods, checking each item with a magnet, which he used to determine the type of metal.  He sorted my batch into 5 different piles and weighed each individually.  There was 31 pounds of material.

  • Steel is the least valuable.
  • Different types of aluminum are valued differently.
  • Coated wires and cords, also called dirty wire, were relatively valuable.
  • The outlet cover pictured above was yellow brass, which was the most valuable of the bunch.

There were also batches of things I would not have thought to bring here, like old gas grills and the types of metal air filters you find on appliances.  They even pay $6 each for car batteries.

The process took about 10 minutes, and at the end, I was rewarded with a grand total of $4.03.

organizing metal for recycling(Yes, those pennies are really that shiny. No photo hi-jinx. All minted in 2012. Ironic, coming from a metals recycler.)

According to Mapquest, my fuel cost for the trip was $5.42.  I paid $1.39 for the privilege of doing this good deed. Yes, I was running other errands, but still, not really worth it.  Even if I had filled my entire car, I wouldn’t be making more than a few bucks.

Makes you wanna run out and get to the metal recycler, right?

And if your mind is wandering to the dark side, check out the current and proposed laws against illegal metal scrapping in PA.

A better solution?  Check with your township or hauler for their recycling guidelines.  Many WANT YOUR METAL and they will take it away for free!  Companies like Philly Junk who do bulk processing will do better than you and I in this endeavor. Sadly, my own township doesn’t appear to recycle the kinds of metals I dropped off today, so there is a hole in the system where individual consumer needs and government services should meet.  But check where you live, since the answer on metal recycling varies widely.

If all else fails, post an ad on for bulk appliances or metal batches.  There is someone out there who will be willing to “scrap” if it just isn’t worth your time but you still want to keep your metal out of the landfill.

Note:  This particular metals recycler asked not to be identified.  Research your local recycler, since policies, services, customer feedback, and prices vary widely.



This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jacquelyn

    We’ve noticed an increase in people who drive through the neighborhood the night before trash pick up and collect scrap metal. Whenever we see one of these guys driving around in their beat up trucks, we hand them our scrap metal.

    Alternatively, I’ll drive to a place that takes scrap metal and give it to a person in line to help them reach the 100 pound minimum required by the scrap metal place in Trenton.

    Beats the landfill any day!

  2. Ridley Fitzgerald

    Thanks for the information about metal recycling. It’s good to know that there are large companies that do bulk recycling, since that sounds way more efficient. In my opinion, as long as the metal gets recycled, it’s a good thing.

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