If you've ever driven by a sign advertising scrap metal prices and wondered whether hunting recyclable metal on your own could be a viable source of extra income, you're not alone—many individuals use scrap metal recycling as a way to supplement their monthly budget, pay for vacations or "extras," or just rid their homes of some excess junk while earning money in the process. However, delving into the world of scrap metal recycling before doing some preliminary research on which types of metal are worthwhile and which are a waste of time can often leave you spinning your wheels. Read on to learn more about this offbeat way to earn extra income, as well as some of the factors you'll want to consider before getting started.
Can you really make money by recycling scrap metal?
Not only does recycling scrap metal keep otherwise-usable material out of the landfill, but it can also make you money in the process. However, it's important to have a plan—and to know the value of the various metals you're planning to recycle—before you get started. Otherwise, you may find yourself focusing your efforts on metal that isn't recyclable, items with low recyclable content, or other materials that may not be worth your while to gather up and truck down to your local recycling center.
In general, the more metal a recyclable object contains, the less processing that will be required to extract this metal, and the higher your overall revenue. For example, a child's toy that contains metal embedded in rubber or plastic is likely to garner a lower per-pound price than an air conditioner, refrigerator, or other appliance that is easily disassembled into its component (metal) parts.
Going bigger is often better in this context, as it can be more cost-effective to recycle one or two heavy appliances than, for example, trying to collect enough aluminum cans or bottle caps to generate a full pound of aluminum at market prices. If you're serious about making money through scrap metal recycling, you'll have to set your sights high and seek out metal-dense items.
What are the best ways to get large quantities of scrap metal?
Unless you have quite a collection yourself, it's unlikely you'll be able to create an ongoing source of income through your own personal scrap metal recycling. This means you'll need to look outside your own property for sources of free, legal scrap metal.
Often, you'll be able to access as much scrap metal as you'd like simply by offering to take items to the dump. Many who don't have a truck themselves can face difficulty when it comes to getting rid of an old refrigerator, clothes washer, or chest freezer; providing free haul-away services can provide you with a source of scrap metal at almost no cost to you.
Those who have a sense of adventure may even want to check out their local dump to practice their "picking" skills. Because many dumps charge a flat rate per truckload, those who take items to the dump can have an incentive to fit as much in their truck as possible, and they may not feel like sifting through their trash for recyclable metal. By surveying your local dump for appliances, cans, or vehicle parts that could enjoy new life through recycling, you'll be able to slightly reduce the amount of trash in your local landfill while adding some change to your pockets.
Should you hold onto scrap metal and wait for prices to rise?
Metal prices can fluctuate wildly, and the supply of (and demand for) certain metals can often cause the prices for other metals to skyrocket or collapse. For this reason, it can sometimes make sense to hang onto scrap metal that contains a high content of a certain metal (like aluminum, copper, or steel) until prices hit a peak.
On the other hand, storage considerations could make it more efficient to simply offload scrap metal as soon as you receive it, freeing up extra space for more metal as it arrives.