How to identify metal scrap

Written by sincerity anna
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If you have various types of metal and want to sell them to a scrapyard or metal recycling facility, you will need to know how to identify each type of metal. There are several different types of scrap metal, and scrapyards buy them all. Each kind has a different colour, weight and value. If you have a bunch of scrap metal, you can sell it by the pound, or ton, for the market value of each metal.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Magnet

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  1. 1

    Use a magnet to help determine what kind of metal you have. Tin, all types of steel and cast iron will stick to a magnet. Large crane held magnets are used in scrap yards and metal recycling facilities to sort the steel. The magnet will not pick up copper, brass, silver or aluminium.

  2. 2

    Look for steel, which comes in different forms. One is short steel, which is steel that is less than 3 feet long and is either a small item or has been cut up. Long steel, such as bridge beams, is referred to as structural steel if it is thick steel. Both short and long steel are a dark, brownish colour. Stainless steel is silver, shiny and brighter than other types of steel. It's what many sinks, doorknobs, bulk tanks, shelves, cabinets and counters are made of. Galvanised steel does not rust. It's what guardrails are made of and has a different, lighter, dull colour.

  3. 3

    Look for iron. Cast iron is a blackish metal that will stick to a magnet. Cooking pots and pans were commonly made of cast iron for many years. It is very heavy but lighter than steel.

  4. 4

    Look for copper. Copper is a valuable metal. When you take copper to a scrapyard, you'll be paid by the pound. The metal market shifts daily on the values of each type of metal. If you have a lot of copper, you'll get a nice amount for it. Modern electric wiring in homes is copper. It has a bright, reddish, shiny colour. If exposed to the elements, copper will turn green. Copper and brass may be confused. Brass is heavier and has more of a yellow colour.

  5. 5

    Look for aluminium. When electric wiring was first installed in houses it was made of aluminium. It is shiny, silver and soft. Check the electrical wires in your home to make sure they are copper and not aluminium. Silver electric wires mean your home needs its wiring replaced. Copper is a safer and a better conductor. It is not limited to wire. Large sheets may be mistaken for tin.

  6. 6

    Look for tin. Tin will stick to a magnet, aluminium will not. It's thin, light, flexible, silver and slightly shiny. Tin and aluminium look a lot alike, but tin has a slightly duller finish.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear gloves when handling steel.
  • Do not try to move large pieces of metal yourself. Ask for help or use a machine.

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