What Exactly Is Scrap Metal?

Your watch, your belt buckle, the components inside the computer or phone you’re using to read this article: metal is all around us, helping us do everything from storing food to driving around town.

But when your watch breaks, your belt wears out or you get a new computer, that metal doesn’t go away. Instead, it becomes scrap: discarded metal products that can be taken apart and melted down to make the raw materials for new consumer goods and products.

Your old junk isn’t the only source of scrap metal, however. Any unwanted metal counts, whether that’s old metal pipes from the house being remodeled across the street or small metal chips produced when the factory down the highway cuts out components for a car door.

Instead of throwing away these used goods and materials, many household consumers like you—along with businesses that generate metal scrap—are taking their unwanted metal to the scrap yard so it can be recycled into new, useful products. And they’re making lots of money doing it.

Want to join them? Here’s what you need to know about scrap metal so you can start turning metal into gold.

Where Does Scrap Metal Come From?

The short answer? Nearly everywhere. Almost every product can become scrap, as long as it’s brought to a metal recycling center. But some industries generate more scrap metal than others:

  • Construction Waste. From copper pipes to aluminum siding to steel beams, a lot of metal goes into the places where we live, work and play. Construction scrap occurs when old buildings are torn down and includes leftover materials that are generated from constructing a new one.
  • Industrial Waste. Machinist shops, factories and other manufacturers generate tons of metal waste. After parts are cut out of metal sheets, the leftovers become scrap, which many manufacturers bring in for recycling so that they can be reused for new products.
  • Discarded Auto Parts. There are over a billion cars in the world today, so needless to say, there are a lot of discarded automobiles, too. When those cars are brought to scrap yards, parts that can’t be reused are broken down and recycled as metal scrap.
  • Used Consumer Goods. From the biggest household appliances to the smallest scrap of aluminum foil, our homes are full of metal scrap. This is where homeowners can hit metal scrap paydirt by bringing used household goods to their nearest metal recycling center.

Common Sources of Household Scrap

Now that we’ve talked about some general sources of metal scrap, it’s time to drill down into the specifics of household scrap—namely, where you can find used metal around your home.

  • Used Cans, Aluminum Foil and Wrappers. Your pantry probably is packed with eventual metal scrap. Aluminum and steel cans, aluminum foil and other metal containers are all recyclable at your local scrap yard.
  • Castoff Household Appliances. From refrigerators to can openers, most appliances contain some metal. And as you might expect, these products take up lots of room in the landfill when they’re not recycled. According to the EPA, used appliances make up around three million tons of landfill waste—which is a shame, since these products can easily be recycled.
  • Old Electronics. Electronics have a pretty short lifespan; experts say computers should be replaced every four years, and the average American replaces their smartphone every 22.5 months. So, there are a lot of old electronics—also known as e-waste—taking up valuable space in landfills. Additionally, electronics are laced with heavy metals like lead, cadmium and chromium, which can contaminate groundwater when not disposed of properly. Fortunately for the environment, these materials can be safely processed at your local scrap yard.
  • Other Junk Around the House. Old silverware, cookware, aluminum window frames, bathroom fixtures, clocks, furniture—there’s plenty of old metal to be found around the home. And all of it can find a better home at your local metal recycling center.

What Can You Do with Scrap Metal?

As you may have already gathered, a metal recycling center is the best place for your unwanted scrap metal. Austin has plenty of locations, such as our recycling facility here at Gardner Metals, which will happily weigh, sort and process your metal donations—and pay you for the privilege. Our teams can even rent you a dumpster for large donations and pick it up and haul it back to our site; the only thing you have to do is call. So what are you waiting for? Contact us today for a free quote!