Types of Metals

Types of metals & how to distinguish and organize them for recycling purposes.

So if you’re new to metal recycling you might be wondering what the different types of metals are and how they are classified by recycling facilities.  here are some basic facts about different metal types and how they should be sorted for recycling purposes.

When it comes to recycling metals its important to know what you’re dealing with in terms of materials. Being knowledgeable about what you have and how to sort and prepare it will get you the most.

There are two major categories of metals, Ferrous & Non-Ferrous. Ferrous metal is iron bearing metal so it will rust, while non-ferrous contains no iron. Non-Ferrous metals are aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, brass etc. Non-Ferrous metals don’t corrode as easily, and they are usually not magnetic because they do not contain iron. There is also another sub category of Non-ferrous metals called precious metals. Precious metals are gold, silver, platinum, iridium, rhodium, palladium etc. These metals are rare and hard to extract from the earth so they are very valuable. Non-Ferrous metals are usually worth more and well worth sorting out of your scrap pile.

Here is a list of non-ferrous metals that most scrap yards take and where you might find them:

  • Aluminum – Roofing, Siding, Bike Frames, Ladders, Screen door frames, Etc.
  • Brass – Plumbing Fittings, Ornament Pieces, nautical hardware.
  • Bronze – Not as common as brass, heavier and with a reddish tint due to copper content. Boat Props, old plumbing fixtures.
  • Copper – Electrical wiring & components, plumbing, sometimes roofing material.
  • Lead – Wheel weights, boat ballasts, roof material.
  • Tin – Roofing material, Car parts.
  • Zinc – Wheel Weights, Pot metal, die cast items. Zine looks simliar to cast aluminum but is heavier.

What are the different metals and their grades?

Ferrous Metals

  • Light Iron metal is less than 1/8” thick like sheet metal, car parts, bike frames, household appliances etc.
  • Steel or iron thicker than 1/8” falls into a few different categories depending on how thick they are and if prepared. If its thicker than 1/8” but less than 1/4” its considered #2 Iron (Usually). If its thicker than 1/4” then it would be considered #1 iron. With #1 and #2 iron, they are graded as prepared metal if the pieces are 2′ X 5′ or less. Pieces that are larger would be considered “unprepared” and fetch less because they scrap yard has to cut them down.

Non-Ferrous Metals:

  • #1 Copper – Copper material that has no contaminants in it, think clean copper pipes with no soldier or paint on them, or large stranded stripped copper wire.
  • #2 Copper – Copper that has paint or soldier on it and doesn’t mean #1 grading.
  • Clean Brass – Just pure brass no contaminants.
  • Extrusion – Aluminum materials like screen door frames, window frames etc.
  • Clean & Cast Aluminum – Aluminum that doesn’t have any iron or brass attached. If has rivets or hardware attached it would be considered “Dirty Aluminum” or “Irony Aluminum”.
  • Stainless- No steel, brass, or copper attached.

Precious Metals

Thinking of taking your gold and silver to the scrap yard to recycle it? “No” – I didn’t think so. But what you don’t realize is that catalytic converters contain metals that are often worth just as much as gold and silver. Its hard to know what you have exactly, but you might want to consider visiting our Catalytic Converters page for more information on how to recycle them.

Now that you understand the basics different types of metals and how they are graded, feel free to search our Metal Recycling Facilities directory to find a place to start scrapping. If you are looking to scrap a vehicle visit our Junk Cars page here.