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"Scrapping" redirects here. Not to be confused with scraping.
"Scrap metal" redirects here. For other uses, see Scrap Metal (disambiguation).
Piles of scrap metal being utilized for the World War II effort, circa 1941

Scrap consists of recyclable materials left over from product manufacturing and consumption, such as parts of vehicles, building supplies, and surplus materials. Unlike waste, scrap can have significant monetary value.

How scrap is processed[edit]

Scrap metal originates both in business and residential environments. Typically a "scrapper" will advertise their services to conveniently remove scrap metal for people who don't need it, or need to get rid of it.

Scrap is often taken to a wrecking yard (also known as a scrapyard, junkyard, or breaker's yard), where it is processed for later melting into new products. A wrecking yard, depending on its location, may allow customers to browse their lot and purchase items before they are sent to the smelters, although many scrap yards that deal in large quantities of scrap usually do not, often selling entire units such as engines or machinery by weight with no regard to their functional status. Customers are typically required to supply all of their own tools and labour to extract parts, and some scrapyards may first require waiving liability for personal injury before entering. Many scrapyards also sell bulk metals (stainless steel, etc.) by weight, often at prices substantially below the retail purchasing costs of similar pieces.

In contrast to wreckers, scrapyards typically sell everything by weight, rather than by item. To the scrapyard, the primary value of the scrap is what the smelter will give them for it, rather than the value of whatever shape the metal may be in. An auto wrecker, on the other hand, would price exactly the same scrap based on what the item does, regardless of what it weighs. Typically, if a wrecker cannot sell something above the value of the metal in it, they would then take it to the scrapyard and sell it by weight. Equipment containing parts of various metals can often be purchased at a price below that of either of the metals, due to saving the scrapyard the labour of separating the metals before shipping them to be recycled. As an example, a scrapyard in Arcata, California sells automobile engines for $0.25 per pound, while aluminum, of which the engine is mostly made, sells for $1.25 per pound.[citation needed]


Some of the biggest searches for scrapping is for scrap prices. Finding them throughout the internet can be tricky. Sometime they are displayed as the market prices which are not the prices that recyclers will see at the scrap yards. Other prices are ranges or older and not updated frequently. The rate of the scrap metal market is ever changing. Some scrap yards' websites[1] have scrap prices are updated. Scrap prices are reported in a handful of U.S. publications, including American Metal Market, based on confirmed sales as well as reference sites such as Scrap Metal Prices and Auctions.[2] Non-US domiciled publications, such as The Steel Index, also report on the US scrap price, which has become increasingly important to global export markets. Scrap yards directories, like the iScrap App[3] are also important for recyclers to find facilities in the US & Canada allowing users to get in contact with yards within minutes.

With many resources online for recyclers to look at for scrapping tips, like on YouTube[4] and Blogs,[5] and Google Blogs [6] scrapping is often referred to as a hands and labor-intensive job. Taking apart and separating metals is important to making more money on scrap. For tips like using a magnet to determine ferrous and non-ferrous materials, that can help recyclers make more money on their metal recycling. When a magnet sticks to the metal, it will be a ferrous material, like steel or iron. This is usually a less expensive item that is recycled but usually is recycled in larger quantities of thousands of pounds. Non-ferrous metals like copper, aluminum, brass, and stainless steel do not stick to a magnet. These items are higher priced commodities for metal recycling and are important to separate when recycling them. The prices of non-ferrous metals also tend to fluctuate more than ferrous metals so it is important for recyclers to pay attention to these sources and the overall markets.


Great potential exists in the scrap metal industry for accidents in which a hazardous material, which is present in scrap, causes death, injury, or environmental damage. A classic example is radioactivity in scrap; see the Goiânia accident and the Mayapuri radiological accident as examples of accidents involving radioactive materials, which entered the scrap metal industry and some details of the behaviour of contaminating chemical elements in metal smelters. Many specialised tools used in scrapyards, such as the Alligator shear which cuts metal using hydraulic force, can also be dangerous to untrained people.

Benefits of recycling scrap metals[edit]

According to research conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency, recycling scrap metals can be quite beneficial to the environment. Using recycled scrap metal in place of virgin iron ore can yield:[7]

Every ton of new steel made from scrap steel saves:

Energy savings from other metals include:

Metal recycling industry[edit]

The metal recycling industry encompasses a wide range of metals. The more frequently recycled metals are scrap steel, iron (ISS), lead, aluminium, copper, stainless steel and zinc. There are two main categories of metals: ferrous and non-ferrous. Metals which contain iron in them are known as Ferrous where metals without iron are non-ferrous.

Non-ferrous metals also include precious and exotic metals.

OSHA guidelines should be followed when recycling any type of scrap metal to ensure safety.

Specific examples[edit]

Ship breaking[edit]

Main article: Ship breaking

Railway locomotives[edit]

A railway locomotive typically contains around 100 tonnes of metal. In the United Kingdom, old railway locomotives are recycled by companies such as European Metal Recycling.

Role in the American economy[edit]

The scrap industry was valued at more than $90 billion in 2012, up from $54 billion in 2009 balance of trade, exporting $28 billion in scrap commodities to 160 countries. Since 2010, the industry has added more than 15,000 jobs, and supports 463,000 workers, both directly and indirectly. In addition, it generates more than $10 billion in revenue for federal, state, and local governments.[8] Scrap recycling also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserves energy and natural resources. For example, scrap recycling diverts 135 million short tons (121,000,000 long tons; 122,000,000 t) of materials away from landfills. Recycled scrap is a raw material feedstock for nearly 60% of steel made in the U.S., for almost 50% of the copper and copper alloys produced in the U.S., for more than 75% of the U.S. paper industry’s needs, and for 50% of U.S. aluminum. Recycled scrap helps keep air and water cleaner by removing potentially hazardous materials and keeping them out of landfills.[9]


See also[edit]


External links[edit]