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Tips for Sorting Scrap Metal

Metals do not biodegrade in the same way as organic materials, but they can be melted down and reused, so the ideal way to dispose of any scrap metal is to take it to a specialist recycling centre. To ensure the most efficient recycling, it is best to sort the metals into different types before taking them to the scrapyard.

Here are our tips for sorting scrap metal that will make recycling quicker and easy, ensuring that you get the most from your recycling service.

1 – Contact your local recycling centre to check their specific requirements

Most recycling centres can take a wide range of metals and metal components, but it is likely they will have some restrictions. For example, some scrap metal yards may not take certain substances such as mercury or lead powder, or they may not have the capability to extract metals from electrical equipment, so it’s always best to check before you recycle.

2 – Separate out whole items that can be recycled

Some metal items, such as car batteries, catalytic converters, motor parts and even vehicles can be handed in to the recycling centre as they are. They can then be expertly broken down to ensure as much metal as possible is extracted and processed.

3 – Test your metals with a magnet

The best way to check the type of metal you have is to test it with a magnet. Anything metal that the magnet sticks to is a ferrous metal and anything that is non-magnetic is a non-ferrous metal. Separating out the two main types of metals for processing can speed up the process and ensure you get the most from your recycling service.

4 – Identifying the different types of non-ferrous metal

Copper is an abundant non-ferrous metal often found in wire, cables, piping and plumbing, but do keep your eyes open for brass. Plumbing is often made of this copper-brass mixture, and it should be separated from pure copper. Brass is much more yellow in colour so it should be easy to separate it from your copper once you know the difference.

Brass is a yellow non-ferrous metal, as is gold, and again you will be able to see the difference, as brass has a far yellower tone.

Aluminium is of a dull silver colour and it weighs much less than other metals, as you will be able to feel simply by picking it up. The aluminium found in metal furniture and drinks cans is considered lightweight. The rest is considered heavy.

Stainless steel is heavy and will be rust-proof. Be mindful not to confuse it with a ferrous steel.

5 – Identifying the different types of ferrous metal

Steel is typically magnetic, and if it’s ready to recycle then it may have started to rust. It is usually accepted if mixed with iron, but keep them separate if it is your first visit to the scrap yard, and ask staff for guidance.

Lead is on the opposite end of the spectrum to aluminium. It is extremely heavy for its size, as well as having a dark grey hue.

Tin is a ferrous metal that you should be able to bend. Put under enough pressure, it will crack.

6 – Sort metals into different containers

Once you’ve separated your ferrous metals from your non-ferrous metals, you can separate them even further into types of metal. Some types of metal are more valuable than others, so separating them all out ensures you get the best return. For example:

  • Aluminium
  • Brass
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Lead
  • Stainless steel
  • Steel
  • Tin

If you regularly collect scrap metal – for example if you’re a tradesmen and often dispose of old fixtures and appliances for your customers – it may be worthwhile to install containers to keep your ongoing collection tidy and organised. However, if this is a one-off job, perhaps if you’re clearing a house, it is still worthwhile identifying and separating your metals to ensure they are recycled effectively.

7 – Separate out clean and dirty metals

Keep metals contaminated with rust, mud, etc. separate from other metals as they will need extra processing. Also separate out metal pieces that are a combination of more than one type of metal, for example, an aluminium pipe that has steel screws affixed.

8 – Bring your scrap metal to our recycling centre

Here at Brown Recycling, our staff are always happy to offer you advice and take your scrap metal off your hands. All of the scrap which we collect is processed and recycled to ensure the most environmentally friendly, efficient and cost effective service. To find out more, or to discuss your scrap metal recycling, simply get in touch with us today.


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Important notice about customer identification

If you wish to use one of our sites to dispose of your metals, you MUST be able to provide us evidence of your identity, this is required by law.

Since the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 (England and Wales) was introduced, all buyers of scrap metal, including mobile collectors, we must ask you for photo identification.

We accept either a driving licence OR passport, AS WELL as a letter or statement from the past three months stating your current address.

Scrap metal dealers must also verify the identity of all sellers. Both forms of identification are needed in order for us to make payments to you for your scrap. Please see the list below of what forms proof we accept alongside driving licence / passport.

Any Queries you may have, please call us on 01384 893707.