How Easy Is It to Recycle Your Scrap Copper?

Copper scrap metal is both easy to find and easy to recycle. Since copper is an abundant and highly sought-after material, you can find scrap copper in many areas of your home or commercial building and get paid for bringing it to a recycling facility like Scrap It.

Learn more about scrap copper, including where to find it, why it’s valuable, and how to get the most money for your copper scrap metal.

What kind of scrap copper can you recycle?

Copper is a common metal used in many household appliances and commercial buildings. The two biggest types of scrap copper are pipes and wires. Here’s where you can find these types of copper scrap metal:

  • Household appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, microwaves, and dishwashers contain copper wiring
  • Some small items such as nuts, bolts, or fasteners may be made of copper
  • Power cables and charging cables for your electronics also typically use copper wiring
  • Plumbing pipes, fittings, and valves often contain or are made of copper
  • Many hot water storage tanks and household heating elements are lined with or contain copper plating
  • Architectural copper and building wire are often used in the construction of commercial and residential buildings

 

You may be surprised at how much copper you can find and sell as scrap metal when you start looking.

Recyclable copper scrap categories

There are two categories of copper scrap: primary or clean copper, and secondary or contaminated copper. These categories can be broken down further like this:

  • #1 copper: primary or clean copper that is clean, unalloyed, and uncoated. Examples include bare copper bars or pipes, such as plumbing pipes or water feeds made of copper tubing. It should also have minimal or no visible signs of tarnishing.
    • #1 insulated wire is of 16 gauge or higher thickness – in other words, at least 1/16th of an inch thick. Its plastic insulation doesn’t need to be stripped. If the wire or cable has no plastic insulation, it might be bare bright copper.
  • #2 copper: secondary or contaminated copper that has solder, paint, or any kind of coating. This type of copper should be unalloyed with a minimum copper content of 94-96%.
    • #2 insulated wire is thinner than #1 insulated wire, but should still be plastic insulated and unalloyed. Some coating or corrosion is acceptable.

 

In other words, if your copper is clean and bare, it’s most likely some kind of #1 copper. If it’s contaminated at all by solder, paint, coating, or tarnishing, it’s most likely some kind of #2 copper.

How is copper graded, separated, and priced?

The different categories or grades of copper that we described are all priced differently. #1 copper is the most valuable, especially bare bright copper. #2 copper is less valuable because it’s been contaminated in some way. The total amount of copper you sell is priced by weight.

Copper wire pricing is a little more complicated because the weight of the wire includes the plastic insulation. It’s usually priced according to recovery, or the percent of copper by weight. For example, a common household wire – the kind that looks like a noodle – is typically about 62% copper and 38% plastic per pound.

Recycled copper typically takes some time to be processed, reused, and put back on the shelves. As a result, you’re actually selling your copper scrap metal for what its estimated worth will be in three months, not what it’s worth today.

You can use various sources to check the pricing of copper, but it changes frequently. Its price is currently reaching an all-time high, making right now a great time to sell your scrap copper. Your Scrap It yards update pricing daily, so don’t be surprised when the numbers change!

What makes copper valuable?

Copper is a useful metal that is used in many ways by various end users. It’s easy to bend and mold, conducts heat and electricity well, and resists corrosion, making it almost 100% recyclable with minimal loss.

Copper pipe can be sold back to pipe manufacturers, and similarly, copper wire can go back to wire manufacturers. Even secondary copper commodities that have some soldering, paint, or other types of contamination can be reused in various ways.

The many uses of copper make it a highly sought-after material that you can find and sell relatively easily.

How to get the most money for your copper scrap metal

The best thing you can do to get the most money for your scrap copper is to separate and sort your materials as well as you can. Here are two simple steps you can follow to help you sort your copper scrap metal:

  1. Separate your copper by type: pipes, wires, and small pieces.
  2. Inspect each type of copper and separate clean items from contaminated items.

 

Sometimes, our customers bring their copper scrap metal all mixed together. In those cases, we will do our best to separate it for you or guide you through separating it yourself. However, depending on how busy we are, we may have to buy your scrap metal as is and give you a mixed price instead of the top price for each grade.

If you have any questions about how much your metal is worth or how to separate your scrap metal, it’s best if you can visit our scrap yards or send us pictures of your scrap copper. It can be challenging for your Scrap It experts to give you advice if we can’t see or picture what you’re dealing with, but we will always do our best to help!

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