Did you know that only 30% of scrap metal actually gets recycled? That means there’s literally piles of metal just waiting to be turned into cash!
But can you make real money this way? Yes, it is possible to earn money selling scrap metal like aluminum, cobalt, copper, iron and steel. It’s pretty simple too. All you need to do is collect it from various sources and sell it to a scrap yard. And since the going rate is about $10 per 100 pounds of metal, you could turn this into a worthwhile side business.
Of course, you have to know the process inside and out, and the tips and tricks to really become successful with this. So, let’s take a look at those!
What is Scrap Metal?
Scrap metal is defined as “discarded metal for reprocessing.” For our purposes, we’re looking at various kinds of metals that have either been removed from something or been junked entirely with the idea of recycling it for money.
While there are many types of metals, these are some of the most common you’re likely to come across:
- Aluminum – found in cans, food foil, screen door frames
- Cobalt – found in batteries
- Copper – found in household plumbing, appliances and electrical wiring
- Iron – found in patio furniture and stair railings
- Steel – found in appliances and sinks
Most types of metals will technically count as “scrap,” but there are certain things you’ll want to avoid. Those are:
- Oil Cans – many scrap yards won’t accept them due to excess residue
- Paint Cans – many recycling centers won’t accept because of the paint residue
- Mixed Metal – any metal that is mixed with things (ie: cardboard) that cannot be easily separated
Ideally, you’re going to want one type of metal with no hazardous residue left on it.
How to Make Money Selling Scrap Metal
Selling scrap metal is just one of the many ways to earn money while picking up trash. The overarching idea is simple, but the process can be broken down into three key steps:
- Get your metal
- Find a scrap yard
- Turn in your metal and get paid
Let’s take a deeper look, starting from the beginning.
1. Get your metal
The first step is an obvious one, but gathering the metal can actually prove to be quite the challenge.
The key to making money is to find a regular supply of scrap metal that isn’t frequented by others who are trying to do the same thing as you.
Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
- Local Auto Repair Shops: Most independently owned auto shops have plenty of junk machinery and parts that are taking up space. Get in contact with them and ask if you can remove it free of charge!
- Construction Sites: There’s always a supply at construction project locations, but always be sure to ask if you can have their scrap metal – never just take it!
- Your Local Plumber or Electrician: Plumbers and electricians have access to some of the most expensive metal out there for scrapping – copper. If your local guy isn’t doing anything with it besides dumping it, ask if you could take it off their hands!
- Hospitals/Medical Clinics: Healthcare facilities generate a lot of trash in the form of old machinery, broken wheelchairs, etc. Get in contact with the administrator and offer your (free) services!
- Craigslist: Post an ad saying you haul away junk metal – you’d be surprised at the number of calls you might receive!
- Dumpsters: Going through dumpsters is a great way to find trashed metal, but make sure you have proper permission first.
- Side of the Road: In neighborhoods, you might find people getting rid of old appliances by putting them on the corner with a “free” sign attached. You could even hunt around for aluminum cans people leave lying around.
Once you’ve gathered up enough of a stash, you’re ready for the next step.
2. Find a scrap yard
This step sounds more straightforward than it actually is. Why? Because not all scrapyards pay equally.
One location might pay $1.00 per pound for copper, while others might pay $2.00 per pound or more. That type of difference will add up when you’re trading in 50-100 pounds of material.
So, do a quick Google search and locate a few scrap yards near you. Then, give them a call or check their website to find out what the going rates are for the type(s) of metal you have.
And if you’re really serious about the business, there’s even an app called iScrap App that gives you the current prices for scrap yards near your location.
After you’ve shopped around and found the yard of your choosing, then you can go to step three.
3. Turn in your metal and get paid
This is the easiest (and arguably best) part of the whole job: getting paid. All you have to do is go down to your scrap yard, turn in the metal, and they’ll payout on the spot.
Just a warning, though: if you were expecting to get paid in cash, you might be sorely disappointed.
Why? Because of a law enacted way back in 2013 where most states made it illegal to pay for scrap metal with cash: it has to be made either electronically or by check.
How Much Can You Make?
How much you can make is obviously directly linked to how many pounds of metal you can collect. It also depends on how much the scrapyard is offering for the type of metal you have.
If you work at it, you could easily make $100 per day.
The average going rate is about $10 per 100 pounds of metal. So, if you collected 1,000 pounds of metal per day, you’d make $100 per day.
That might seem like a lot of metal, but many appliances weigh more than you think. For example, the average refrigerator weighs 300 pounds – and older ones weigh more. So, it won’t take as long to add up as you might think.
Are There Any Startup Costs?
Technically speaking, the only startup costs you might have to worry about are gas to get you to and from the scrap yard and the place where your metal is.
The catch, though, is if you’re trying to scrap thousands of pounds of metal a day, you aren’t going to reasonably transport all that in a Prius. You’d want to have a pickup truck, ideally with a strong trailer attached.
Now, if you don’t have one, I’m not recommending going out and purchasing one for tens of thousands of dollars.
A more realistic option if you don’t have a vehicle that can handle transporting large loads would be to find a large load of metal – either a junked car or a deal with a construction site – and rent a trailer for the day to transport the material.
- Can earn decent money
- Can be a consistent stream of income
- Doesn’t require much expertise to get started
- Can be time-consuming
- Need a truck to haul large loads consistently
- Need to be creative with your metal sources
Overall, selling scrap metal can be a lucrative side hustle if you have the proper tools to get started. If you don’t, you might find it hard to have success, as you’ll need to transport thousands of pounds of metal to make this venture worthwhile.