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Wondering Whether You Can Recycle Metal You've Found Around The House?

If you've suffered some financial upheaval over the last few months and are looking for ways to supplement your regular income, you may be hunting around your house and property for scrap metal that can be recycled. With scrap metal prices ranging anywhere from $0.10 to more than $1.50 per pound, recycling a junky car or old refrigerator can yield a surprising amount of cold, hard cash. However, not all metal is suitable for recycling -- and in other cases, you may be undervaluing the price of your metal by selling it for scrap rather than as-is. Read on to learn more about the ins and outs of metal recycling to determine whether the metal you're finding is worth sending to a scrapyard. 

What types of metal can be easily recycled? 

When metal is recycled, it's generally crushed or shredded, then melted down to remove any impurities or additives and create a solid sheet of pure metal. For example, aluminum body panels from a vehicle may be melted so that the paint can be skimmed from the top, then rolled into thin sheets to be used for new auto manufacturing, tools, or even aluminum foil. 

Because most metal is melted during some stage of the recycling process, the metals that are most easily recycled (and often bring the most value) are those that can be easily melted and reformed into new shapes and that are already relatively pure. Ferrous (or magnetic) metals can often fetch a higher price because they're easier to sort -- all you'll need to do is place an industrial-strength magnet into a pile of scrap metal to immediately segregate the ferrous metal. Metals that are composed of a mix of ferrous and non-ferrous materials, that have an ultra-high melting point, or that are coated with lead-based paint or other potential hazards are generally much more difficult to recycle and won't fetch nearly as high a price at a scrapyard as pure, easily-melted metals.

What should you do to the metal you find before recycling it?

In many cases, you'll be able to supply whole scraps of metal to a recycling plant and do nothing further -- the plant will handle any processing that needs to occur.

However, in some cases, you may need to strip paint from your scrap metal or take steps to remove other impurities before it can legally be recycled. For example, because lead-based paint can be very toxic, recycling older pieces of scrap metal that have been painted may not be possible in your area. Because recycling plants don't have the time or manpower to test all recycled painted products for lead contamination, implementing a strict "no paint" rule is often easier than the alternative, and will require you to use turpentine or another solvent to remove the paint from your scrap metal.