Scrap metal; what’s the deal?

So we hear that gold has hit an all time high, silver is pretty good too, but there are all these scavengers around looking for Aluminum, as well as Copper and Brass and what ever else they can get their hands on. Weird “Meth-Heads” taking out street lights for the copper in the wires? Destitute people on a street taking out the city water system to get at the brass in the meters. Homeless folks scrounging for Aluminum. All these people in dire straights take this stuff to SOME BODY. What does that somebody do with it? How do they “prep” it? Whom do THEY sell it to? Obviously they wouldn’t do it if it weren’t for a profit. How do they “prepare” it? I think melting it down MUST cause a bunch of pollution. I know how Junk car scrapper’s work, they save the best parts from a wreck and sell the rest for scrap. But who BUYS it? And for how much? The little shrunken homeless guy I know takes his cans to a recycling place – and they give him money, but then what becomes of the cans? Who buys the “scraps” and what EXATLY do they do with them? I don’t care about the plastics and the paper – I already know, but the mettle? What becomes of that? and who buys it? after they do - where does it go?

Is this one for Cecil?

Thanx -


Look up “scrapyards” in your local phone book. They have set rates they give you per pound of whatever metal you bring in and what they buy does indeed get melted down-- this is usually much more energy efficient than processing new raw materials and, in fact, with many metals much more recycled material gets used than new.

These places have plenty of legit customers-- demolition contractors, garages, frat houses (a garbage can full of crushed cans will usually command enough scrap value to buy a case of domestic beer), plumbers (who end up with a lot of leftover copper tube), and really anyone who ends up with a lot of extra metal lying around.

However, yes, in these times of high metal prices (well, they were a lot higher a couple years ago, but whatever), the local authorities have tried to get these yards to be a little more skeptical about what people bring in, which they have been to varying degrees. For example, people figured out that beer kegs were worth more in scrap than the deposit, so people started stealing those left and right, so the scrapyards here don’t take any kegs now. I imagine if you turn up with a bunch of county water meters or something, you’re going to have to have a very good story about where you got them.

(Oh, and it’s metal, not mettle, but I can’t think of a good joke right now)

A few years ago, law enforcement agencies around here ran some stings on scrapyards. One place actually wrote a check for an entire spool of new wire(think spool like you make a table out of) with the PG&E tags still attached. Didn’t write many after that.:smiley:

Obviously, people who lack vigor and strength of spirit buy surplus from those who have more than they need.

Any money is profit when you steal what is sold. You take in a ton of scrap and receive almost nothing, unless it’s high grade high demand metal in which case you get a little bit of money. summary is stolen metal for scrap is all profit, but a lot of work for little money. Shoplifting an ipod would be easier and more profitable.

People that steal rolls of wire and other perfectly good materials often sell it for for the intended use. There has always been a lucrative market for stolen building materials and equipment.

You have to have an id recorded with your scrap slip to sell to the scrap yard in town. This is to give the police if something is stolen that they bought.

The scrap yard will seperate the metals and send them to differend smelting companies where they are rerefined into new metals.

Now the metal recyclers in Calif check ID, and you are required to have picture ID. They record name and address.

I have a friend who works for PG&E and his name can not show up on a metal recyclers name list because it could cost him his job.

This. We get about a hundred pounds of aluminum per week where I work and I’m in charge of taking it to the recycling center. The recycling dudes told me they sell it to a smelter who smelts it into an ingot which is then bought by someone to use, often the Chinese.

The place we take our aluminum also requires ID. After having thieves steal some of their scrap to resell later, they installed a night vision security camera system as well as a .45 pistol in the money drawer.

That’s actually not entirely accurate. Since the financial crisis hit the prices of all commodities, including the scrap market, have fallen by 50% or more. (although they are creeping upward)

Before the crash, copper and aluminum (among others) were very profitable to scrap. Even now, fill up the back of a pick up with copper and you won’t need to work for a couple weeks.

So it depends on the metal. Washing machines, sheet metal, steel----not so much. Copper, aluminum etc ----yes.

ipods might be more profitable, but used air conditioning coils and copper plumbing are a little easier to come by.

To get a pickup load of metal is a lot of physical work to get that load. Most scrap is not going to be the most expensive metal either. Stealing something expensive that can be sold as a consumer commodity will be less work for the dollars gained.

They are made into new cans.

Aluminum is one of the most-recycled metals in the world. That’s because it is VASTLY cheaper to recycle than to refine new out of aluminum ore. Resmelting/recycling aluminum requires only 5% of the energy required to refine aluminum from ore.

Just because it is “junk” it doesn’t mean it is not a sophisticated business.

Saw a program on The History Channel (I think? Discovery maybe . . ) about a major car recycling operation in Europe. The were trucking the junk cars in, shredding them and loading a ship. Everything was timed to the minute. If the ship didn’t get loaded sufficiently and on time the profit would disappear. Of course, the ship was destined for China. Interesting stuff.

I’ve taken brass cartridge cases down to New Southgate Metals (about the only one left round here now) and they pay me by weight. They’re slightly fussy about making you bring a letter saying it’s yours to dispose of.

Right, but most guys aren’t stealing the metals they scrap.

We have a guy we call for all the units we pull out of homes/businesses. He shows up and takes it off our hands for free—for the scrap value.

He’s not going to be buying a condo in Boca any time soon, but he makes a modest living at it.

And he’s not stealing ipods for it. :dubious:

Even so, put a washing machine out on the street here (outside of Boston) and it’ll vanish. The other day I put an old stove out, and minutes later it was gone. Even with prices down, in a recessionary economy, there are plenty of people out there – Hispanic immigrants, I usually find – who pick this stuff up and resell it. The reason is that there are basically no barriers to entry. Anyone with a working vehicle, or even a shopping cart, can collect stuff for resale.

And the scrap market is a worldwide business. A lot of the steel/iron scrap is loaded into bulk carriers and sent to China. And lead, I was told recently at the scrapyard, goes to Spain, of all places.

Oh, I agree. Sheet metal is around $20/ton. That’s a lot of work for $20. The scrap guys I know have routes----like a paper route. They go by bars that use aluminum cans at 4 a.m.; HVAC companies at 4 p.m. and so forth.

They’re like vacuum cleaners. We use to load up all our scrap/equipment at the end of the day—until one day I put it out near my truck at 10:00 a.m. Inside an hour someone wanted it.

So now I put furnaces etc out at the curb first thing. If it’s still there when we are done we take it with us. 50% of the time it’s gone by the end of the day.

But in a store are cameras and security. A construction sight of a utility power station may not have night security.

Pure copper, brass, or aluminum are very profitable.

Nickel was upto $24/lb 2 years ago, almost making it cost effective to recycle nickels!

Aluminum uses HUGE amounts of electricity to smelt. Copper is pretty rare.

In 1967 Canada stopped putting silver in dimes and quarters (and half dollars and silver dollars). When silver hit $50/ounce courtesy the Hunt Bros. in the 70’s, those coins started disappearing - the silver was worth more than the face value. It was illegal to melt them down in Canada, so the trick was to smuggle them into the USA. Most disappeared - it is almost impossible to find silver coins in circulation nowadays - you find one once in a blue moon. Nickels (no silver) - you still find King George nickels from before 1953.

Or, in extreme cases, bridges.

Which puzzles me to no end - if you’ve got the manpower, the tools, the logistics and are prepared to make the kind of effort it takes to dismantle a damn *bridge *overnight, why not use it for something that’ll net more than maybe a thousand bucks worth of loot ?

There was a period a few years ago, just before Chinese demand drove up the price of scrap metal, and just after the European Union brought in legislation requiring scrapyards to take expensive measures to protect the environment, where the price of scrap steel dropped from $40 to $4 a ton. Scrappies started charging people to take their old cars away, which led to streets peppered with abandoned vehicles. Now the junk yards have learned to cope without burning tyres and seeping engine oil into the water table, and the Chinese have brought the price of scrap steel back up to the point where it’s worth scavenging for.

Lead and copper have always been worth good money as scrap, and anything made from these metals is at risk of being stolen (church roofs and railway power cables are popular with the traditionalist criminal). I recall the engineering workshop I used to work in as a lad (~25 years ago) used to burn the insulation off unwanted mains wires and take the remaining copper cores to the scrap merchants to be cashed in. Not recommended - burning PVC is nasty stuff, but the green copper flames were very pretty.

Aluminium generally isn’t present in stealable amounts, or there would be a black market in that too. It’s left up to the homeless to gather sackfuls of drinks cans for recycling. And occasionally charity drives - BBC children’s programme Blue Peter used to collect the aluminium foil milk bottle tops that people would collect and post in. I could never work out the maths behind that one, as it must take the bottle tops from the monthly milk consumption of a small town to buy one guide (seeing-eye) dog.

The hell it isn’t - around here we’ve had some major problems with the aluminum siding being pried off homes, along with gutters and downspots.

Two months ago five people were arrested at the local scrap yard for bringing in about three houses worth of siding at one time with no good explanation as to how they acquired it. Coincidentally, three homes in the area has been siding-stripped the prior couple of days.