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Scrap-Metal Recycling: Two Tools That Will Help You Sort Scrap Efficiently

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If you have been recycling scrap metal in your home or business, you know that the amount that scrappers will be willing to pay will highly depend on whether the metal is sorted. Handing over unsorted scrap reduces its value, as scrappers have to hire labor for sorting and cleaning the metal before recycling it. For this reason, finding a way to sort your scrap efficiently can save time and increase your earnings from scrap-metal recycling. Here you will learn two primary tools that will help you sort scrap metal quickly and fetch a good price for it.


Scrap metal is broadly categorized into ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Ferrous metals and their alloys are magnetic, as they contain iron in their composition. They include mild steel, stainless steel, carbon steel, wrought iron, and cast iron. Non-ferrous metals and their alloys do not contain iron; hence, they are nonmagnetic. Examples include aluminum, silver, lead, copper, nickel, titanium, brass, and zinc.

Ferrous and non-ferrous metals are valued differently, with non-ferrous ones fetching a better price, as they are not prone to rust and degradation as are ferrous ones. Using a magnet is the easiest way of sorting these metals. All the metals that are attracted to the magnet are ferrous, and they should be piled together. Those that don't attract are non-ferrous, and they are the most valuable and the most sought after by scrappers.


Your eyesight is a powerful tool that can help you sort your scrap and save time while at it. A simple understanding of metals and their colors and how they look when they are in good condition and after degradation is essential for everyone who recycles. Eyesight can help you to quickly determine which metals will be valuable to the recycling company.

For example, copper, one of the most recycled non-ferrous metals, has an orange color that turns green when it's weathered. Knowing this will help you pick out copper from a pile of scrap and sort valuable copper from the degraded copper. Have the following in mind when sorting other types of metal:

  • Aluminum has a shiny or light-gray color, but it dulls when oxidized or exposed to the elements.
  • Silver metal tarnishes after weathering.
  • Nickel has a grayish color that takes on a yellow tinge when exposed to chemicals and corrosives.

Any metal that seems to have lost its natural color may be degraded due to oxidation, and this can reduce its value. Although scrappers will accept this metal, they may not offer as much as they would for metals that are in good condition.

Don't beat yourself up if you haven't mastered the art of sorting scrap metal. With regular practice and utilization of these tools, you can efficiently sort scrap metal and make reasonable earnings from it.