Millions of Americans want to make extra money, but few realize how much they’re throwing away. The U.S. only represents approximately 5% of the global population, yet we create over 30% of the planet’s trash. Every single day, we throw away 63,000 garbage trucks worth of trash which, if lined up bumper-to-bumper, would reach halfway to the moon. Half of the trash Americans toss out daily can be recycled, and a significant part of that is metal. In fact, scrap metal recycling can help improve the world and your finances.
Why Should You Bother Recycling Metal?
Approximately 7-10% of landfill waste is made of scrap metal. That may not sound like a lot, but it equates to over 20 million tons of recyclable material that can help the planet and also result in a healthy profit. There are two categories of metal: ferrous (iron-based) and non-ferrous. Two-thirds of all steel produced is ferrous while non-ferrous materials are especially important for recycling purposes.
Lead-based batteries are non-ferrous and account for almost 70% of landfill scrap. Few people realize the importance and benefits of scrap metal recycling, which is perhaps why only one-third of either type of metal (approximately seven tons) ever reaches an appropriate scrap metal recycling center.
What Types of Metals Are the Most Valuable?
Any type of metal is valuable, and even ferrous metal can be recycled to help save energy costs and reduce the carbon footprint. But if you’re focused on the money end, non-ferrous metals provide a better monetary payout. Copper scrap metal is one of the most valuable options for metal recycling. If it’s good quality, it’ll be reddish brown compared to dark brown or with a greenish patina. Copper pipes and wires are used as building materials and in plumbing applications, so they’re not hard to find.
Brass is a mid-level value recycled metal. It’s made of copper and zinc, so it’s yellow with a red tint. Brass is dense, so its weight can add up quickly. Keys, door handles, bathroom fixtures, light fixtures, and even the connectors at the end of copper tubing are often made of brass. Combined with copper recycling, you might be pleasantly surprised at the payout.
Aluminum is a cheap payout, but it can be recycled continually. While the material can fully degrade, it takes 200-500 years to do so. A ton of recycled aluminum reduces used landfill area by 10 cubic yards. It also saves 1,663 gallons of oil and 14-megawatt hours of electricity. Recycling aluminum is 95% more efficient than creating a new supply. Almost 120,000 aluminum cans are recycled each minute in this country, so there are plenty to find.
Steel is one of the most common materials in the world. It’s found in cabinets, chairs, buildings, cars, and the list goes on. Americans toss out enough steel every three months to recreate the entire island of Manhattan. It’s heavy, so it’s not worth much via recycling unless you have the ability to cart a lot of it at once. Still, steel should be recycled as soon as possible to avoid taking over landfill space.
Less than 2% of the nation’s waste stream actually makes it to a recycling center. Assuming the average American weighs 150 pounds, in a single lifetime each person tosses out approximately 600 times their body weight (90,000 pounds) of trash in a lifetime. Scrap metal recycling can help save the world and pad your wallet simultaneously. Talk about a win-win.