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How to Separate Metals for Recycling

Updated March 23, 2017

Metal recycling consists of reusing scrap or waste metals to create new items. Aluminium and steel are two of the most common recycled scrap metals and do not lose any of their properties when recycled, so they can be used many times over. Recycled scrap metal contributes less waste in the environment and landfills. Some centres pay a fee for scrap metal. Metals should be separated if you plan to recycling them.

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  1. Find six large cardboard boxes to separate and sort the different metals being recycled. Mark each box as follows: aluminium, batteries, brass, copper, iron and steel. These are the six different metal categories used in the scrap metal recycling industry.

  2. Begin with the box labelled "Aluminum." Objects such as soda cans, storm doors, aluminium car pieces and aluminium furniture should go in this box.

  3. Pass a magnet over the metal items. If the items have a magnetic attraction to the magnet, set them in the "Iron" box. This is the simplest way to determine which pieces of metal are iron. If you do not have a magnet, examine the pieces for rust. Items usually comprised of iron are home appliance pieces, cars and pipes.

  4. Examine the remaining metal objects and look for the items that are similar in appearance to iron, but do not have the magnetic attraction. These items are most likely stainless steel and should go in this box. Common items made of stainless steel are some appliances, vehicle trim, stair handrails and beer kegs.

  5. Put old batteries in the "Batteries" box. Vehicle batteries are also recyclable.

  6. Set metal items that are reddish in colour or stained green from water exposure in the "Copper" box. The most common copper items are plumbing fittings, wire and electrical wiring pieces.

  7. Gather any items that are yellow or gold in colour and set them in the "Brass" box. Common brass items are bathroom fixtures, doorknobs and light fixtures.

  8. Tip

    Make sure you have rinsed or washed all items before recycling them. If they are dirty or have liquid inside, the centre may reject them. If you are looking to make money from recycling scrap metal, commercial recyclers usually pay by the weight.

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Things You'll Need

  • 6 cardboard boxes
  • Magnet

About the Author

Dianne Christensen began writing professionally in 2003 for the "Muskegon Chronicle" in Muskegon, Mich. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.

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