How to scrap copper

Updated April 17, 2017

Copper is bright reddish-brown when new (after processing), and it turns pale green with ageing. Copper is mined from the earth, and is used in a variety of applications, including construction, plumbing, wiring, currency and artistic works. It is an easily recycled material. According to Scrap Copper, a copper and aluminium recycling information source, 80 per cent of the copper that has ever been mined is still in use today as a result of recycling.

Separate heavy copper scrap from other grades of copper. The heavy copper scrap is the most in demand and consists of uncoated, clean, unalloyed copper (copper which is not mixed with other types of metal such as aluminium or steel). Heavy copper scrap, or Number one (No. 1) grade copper scrap, can include punchings, clippings, bus bars, pipe and wire that is over one-sixteenth inch thick, with no burnt or brittle wire.

Separate Number two (No. 2) grade scrap copper. This consists of such items as copper wire, soldered pipe, bare bright copper wire, insulated copper wire, copper and aluminium cable scrap, copper and steel cable scrap, copper from various types of motor coils and other copper scrap material. Light gauge wire and oxidised wire is allowed for No. 2 grade scrap copper, but fine gauge wire is not. Excessive oxidisation and burnt wire is not classified with No. 2 grade copper scrap but as a lower grade scrap.

Separate your copper scrap into a third category for all soldered copper pipe scrap. You should remove any non-copper fittings before recycling. Number 3 (No. 3) copper scrap, includes soldered copper pipe scrap. It can consist of any length of copper pipe that has soldered joints. It should be free of bronze or brass fittings or any other fittings that are not made of copper.

Separate your copper scrap into a fourth category for light scrap copper, which can include sheet copper, downspouts and gutters, foil, boilers and kettles. Light scrap consists of thin gauge copper that can contain (only) surface oxidation. There are other, less-common grades of scrap copper that you can research, but the four categories explained here should cover the vast majority of your needs.

Use copper scrap price websites to determine current market pricing and compare it with local prices for scrap copper. Use this information to decide when and where to sell your scrap copper; sometimes, a little extra time and effort can make a big difference in price.

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About the Author

Scott Wolfenden began writing in 2006 on the subject of mental health. He has written a book on ADHD, children's mental health, education and parenting partially based on experience teaching in public schools. He blogs for Learning Things, an educational products website. He graduated from Thomas Edison State College with a Bachelor of Arts in social science and additional coursework in psychology.