Stainless steel is a common scrap metal found in everything from household appliances to medical equipment. This scrap metal guide by your Scrap It experts will tell you everything you need to know about getting paid for your stainless steel scrap metal.
What is stainless steel?
Did you know stainless steel was originally called rustless steel? This metal alloy is known for its rust- and heat-resistant properties, making it popular for kitchen appliances, medical equipment, and other uses that require durable materials that are easy to keep clean.
Examples of recyclable stainless steel
There is a nearly endless list of stainless-steel products and applications. Here is a list of some of the most common examples:
- Food handling and processing equipment
- Screws and utensils
- Machinery parts, including some auto bodies and aircraft
- Variety of architectural elements
- Home appliances, like refrigerators, sinks, and laundry machines
- Surgical tools and medical equipment
Look for a label containing product information to check if your material is stainless steel.
Is stainless steel a valuable scrap metal?
People often hear “stainless steel” and think of regular steel, an iron alloy. Stainless steel does contain some iron. However, it also contains other elements that make it more valuable than regular iron or steel, although not as valuable as other scrap metals such as copper.
Stainless steel’s scrap metal price fluctuates with the market, typically ranging anywhere from $0.40-1.30 per pound.
The value of different grades of stainless steel
Different grades of stainless steel contain different amounts of elements such as iron, chromium, and nickel. Since nickel is more valuable than steel, higher nickel content usually makes stainless steel more valuable.
There are three main categories of stainless steel that we buy at Scrap It:
- Type 304 Stainless Steel: this grade of stainless steel is the most common type used in household appliances since it’s strong and rust-resistant. Its composition is mostly ferrous steel and chromium, with a very small amount of nickel.
- Type 316 Stainless Steel: this grade of stainless steel contains a higher amount of nickel, which increases its value. It’s a strong, high-temperature, less corrosive alloy often used in marine applications.
- 400 Series Stainless Steel: this grade of stainless steel is often used in surgical-grade medical equipment. Its nickel content is much lower than 300 Series Stainless Steel, meaning its value is usually lower.
When is stainless steel not recyclable?
Stainless steel itself is always 100% recyclable! However, some household appliances are labeled “stainless steel,” but their iron content is too high. As a result, these materials are scrapped at the price of iron instead of stainless steel.
In other cases, only parts of the appliance are stainless steel, while other components are made with other materials. You may be able to get stainless steel pricing on those specific components, but not on the entire weight of the appliance.
For example, picture a refrigerator: its doors may be stainless steel, but its sides and back may have iron elements. Taking the refrigerator apart and properly sorting its components gives you the best chance of getting the best price overall.
Get the most value out of scrap stainless steel
Follow these two simple steps to get the most value out of your stainless steel scrap metal:
- Clean your stainless steel
- Isolate components made of different materials
If you’re not sure how to isolate different components, read through our guide to identifying scrap metal to get started.
Otherwise, cleanliness is essential to getting the most value from scrap stainless steel. The less contamination your stainless steel has, the more value you can get out of it. For the common Type 304 Stainless Steel, the different levels of contamination are:
- Clean 304: can be scrapped as is
- 304 Unprepared: contaminated by things like foam, glue, or a higher iron content
- Iron-y 304: mostly iron, only some true stainless steel
Try the magnet test to check for iron-y 304. If a magnet sticks to your scrap metal, its iron content is too high for you to get paid for stainless steel. You’ll still get paid, but at the price point for iron instead!
Do you have more questions about your scrap metal? Contact us anytime!
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