Money for Nothin' - My Experience with Scrappin'

Scrappers and scrapping have taken on negative connotations in the recent years. It was bad enough to see the headlines night after night of another home owner, church, or business becoming a victim of this brainless, thieving crime. What was worse, was when a family member was hit.

I've seen graveyards stripped of brass vases. Churches relieved of copper gutters and A/C units - despite the A/C units being locked down in chain-link cages. Thousands of dollars of electrical cables cut down - while hot!

Then one day it hit me. Maybe these guys ain't dumb...

I realized that the reason they have such sticky fingers with metals is not from the jacket that they just melted off of those electrical lines (still dumb, btw). They are doing this because metal prices are (or at least were) up - bigtime. Maybe I was the dumb guy for having a box of random scraps as well as several copper cut-offs just laying around. It doesn't have to be such a sinister act. Besides, you're recycling! It was time I cashed in on the scrappin' gravy train.

I started consolidating my scraps and realized that I had more than I thought. I had replaced two junky aluminum storm doors with much nicer, all glass ones last Fall. Yeah, two aluminum doors + the trim pieces, just laying around. Copper cut-offs I had mentioned before, but also some brass joints and valves that were replaced.

As the dollar signs were rolling in my head, I looked forward to a few looming DIY projects - the kitchen remodel (including the cast-iron sink and crummy old faucet), the bathroom shower remodel (lots of copper pipe and brass castings), and the electrical system upgrade from fuses to breakers (big, heavy, steel box). My scrap run would have to wait. In the meantime, I found myself giving lots of things a good hard look, thinking, "hrrmm, I wonder what it weighs?".

It gets to you, so watch yourself, and stop eying the neighbor's old swingset.

A few weeks later I prepared my cache. Not all scraps are taken at the same rate despite being like materials. High dollar materials, like brass and copper, will be split between at least two grades each. A grade 1 piece pretty well like new. No solder on the copper, no steel screws in the aluminum - pure samples. Everything else is grade 2 or lower, though my recycler of choice had just 2 grades. Grade 1 scraps will of course fetch the best price, with grade 2 being half-rate, sometimes less.

Here is how I came out:

  • The aluminum trim from those storm doors? Grade 1. They were little more than cut-off aluminum extrusions. I had about 5 pounds of trim (grade 1) and 30+ pounds of doors (grade 2). Would have been worth my time to look at reducing those doors down to parts to get more into the grade 1 bin. $15 in Aluminum
  • Brass adds up fast. I had a relatively small box of brass, but it sure is dense and pricey. 11lbs of yellow brass netted me $15.40
  • Copper on the other hand is fairly light and usually thin-walled. So while it pays well, you likely don't have as much as you think. 6lbs of grade 2 copper came out to $12
  • Tin sucks. Steel, cast-iron and the like gets payed by the ton, not the pound. Meaning I had to weigh in, drive around back and unload it myself onto the giant pile of twisted steel scrap, and then weigh out. Not worth your time unless you have a large load. Here, the heaviest pieces of my haul brought in very little. This would explain the S-10s and Chevettes I saw - loaded to the hilt - weighing in and out. The scrap looked to rival the weight of the car! For their sake, I hope it did. 180lbs brought in just $14.40
All in, I walked out with $56 and some change. Not bad. I kept it out of the landfill, and made some money. All I was out was my time - pretty close to money for nothin', chicks (on the other hand) still aren't free. Speaking of my time, I made the mistake of going over lunch, so I had to wait. And wait. And wait. This ate up the majority of my lunch hour. All the more reason to take a portion of my cash and by myself lunch. I called the Mrs. and told her how I just made 51 dollars :)

Any veteran scrappers out there with advice for the noobs? Do you bother to call around for prices?


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