Knowing how to classify scrap copper could mean the difference between netting a nice price from a recycling facility and unknowingly throwing away potentially valuable pieces of copper. The information below will help you to assess whether any scrap you may have is eligible for recycling and, as a result, a monetary payout.
The most valuable form of scrap copper is known as "Number 1 heavy scrap" and includes bus bars, clippings, punchings and wiring with a thickness of 1/16" or more. These pieces are made of unalloyed copper that is clean and uncoated.
The second most valuable form of scrap is called "Number 2 scrap copper wire." Like heavy scrap, pieces included in this classification are clean and unalloyed but, in this case, they may be coated or oxidised as long as they do not have too much soldering. Copper pieces that fall into this group consist of light gauge wiring and coated variants of bus bars, clippings, commutator segments and punchings.
Soldered Copper Piping
The third most valuable form of copper scrap is referred to as "soldered copper pipe scrap." This grouping includes pieces of copper pipe with soldered joints. If the piping has fittings made with materials other than copper, it does not fall into this classification.
Scraps of beryllium that are alloyed with copper will net the fourth highest price. Items like piping, bars, clippings, tubing, elbows and punchings are often made from this material and are eligible for recycling.
The fifth highest price is paid for items that classify as "light scrap." To be classified as such, items must have a high surface area made from copper. This group includes copper sheets, gutters, downspouts, boilers, kettles, copper foil and unburned hair wiring. These materials may only have oxidation on their surface, not in their inner components, in order to be recycled.
Depending on their condition, many other smaller components may qualify as scrap for recycling purposes as long as they contain more than 30% copper. See the link in Resources for an itemised listing of additional qualifying components. While these smaller and less pure pieces will not fetch a high price when turned in to a recycling facility individually, turning in a large cache of them will net a larger bulk payout.