When I started checking into the idea of hanging onto our scrap metal for recycling, I have to admit, I had some false assumptions.

The first and probably biggest assumption was that I’d be able to pocket a nice wad of cash for my scrap.  As I dug into my research it was clear this was not the case.  Lemme break it to you: you will not get rich recycling the scrap metal that accumulates over the natural course of doing business.  I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but there’s just no way around it, that is unless your paver supplier is quadruple banding every paver you ever buy.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still recycle your bad rims, tie rods, dump bodies, alternators, spent diamond blades and metal banding.  When you look at the dollars (and the warm feeling you’ll get inside when you know landfills aren’t getting stocked with something that’s reusable), recycling is still the way to go.

Allow me to explain.

Even though the steady decline of our economy has also impacted the prices scrap dealers are willing to pay for steel, iron, copper and aluminum, in my local area there are still scrap metal dealers willing to pay between $20 and $70 per ton.

I know.  $20 isn’t much, is it?  The variance in dollars fetched per ton has to do with what kind of metal it is.  For example, if it was a full ton of metal banding, they tell me that’s less valuable, hence the $20/ton price tag.  If it’s better quality stuff like pieces of linkage for trucks, drive shafts, skidsteer wheels (BIG stuff), then it’d be worth $70.

And a ton is a lot, right?  Not really, when you consider the weights of some of the things we routinely deal with.  The worn out bit for our Brown Bed Edger has to weigh 30-40 pounds.  The steering linkage (that I threw away two years ago!) from our F600 probably weighed 80-100 pounds.  And I can’t even estimate how much metal banding we’ve thrown away.

Another thing to consider is that the prices have dropped precipitously since last summer.  One quoted scrap metal dealer in my area said that steel and iron have dropped in value 75% since it was last sunny and warm in Wisconsin.  Aluminum was $.80 a pound; now it’s $.25 per pound. The prices aren’t usually that low, and the dealers I contacted expressed hope that prices would rise again in summer.

And therein lies the beauty of scrap metal.  It’s scrap, so it’s not going to significantly deteriorate in time.  And you can store it in an unused part of your shop or property so it doesn’t tie up valuable real estate.  If you have a pile of it now and the value is low, just leave it in a pile.  Wait until the value goes up.  You can call your local dealers every few months to see if the price has gone up, and when it does – cash in.

The things they take?  Just about anything that’s made of metal.  They don’t want things that contain chemicals they’ll have to deal with later such as freon.  So no AC units, please.  But besides that, they’ll accept screws, brackets, doorknobs, nails, sheet metal, tube steel, rebar, metal banding, dump bodies, truck or tractor wheels, caulk guns, spent diamond blades, spent wood blades, hand saws, broken shovels (the metal part), bolts, nuts…you get the idea.  If it’s made of metal, they’ll take it.

Here’s a few tips to get your scrap metal recycling program off to a successful start:

Set up a garbage can in your workshop for all scrap metal.  That way the little things like rebar chunks will end up put to good use instead of landfilled.

Set aside a spot on your property for the larger stuff.  It can be as simple as a pile.

Call around.  Some dealers pay better than other for scrap.

Dealers will often have a different price based on the volume of scrap you’re bringing in.  One of the better paying dealers in my area differentiated price at the half ton point.  Anything less than 1,000 pounds was one price (lower) anything more than 1,000 pounds got another (higher).  So it’ll pay to have a spot to store a good quantity – but it needn’t be more than a 6’x6′ area.

Many can accept the scrap in dump trucks, so whenever you’re ready, just scoop up your metallic pile and toss it into one of your trucks.

Like I said before, if the price today isn’t very good for your scrap, just sit on it until it is.

The cost of dumping scrap metal at my local county landfill was just under $25 per ton, and they tell me they’re one of the cheapest in Wisconsin.  And in general, we tend to be pretty cheap about everything.  Expect much higher costs in more metropolitan areas like Chicago or Philadelphia.

By recycling, you’ll actually be netting out up to $100 per ton (or more) versus sending it to a landfill.  Certainly worth the almost non-effort you have to make to recycle.  And you’ll be making your back pocket and the planet just a little greener, too.

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