How to Earn Extra Money: Scrap Metal

People are always on the look out for how to earn extra money, and get ahead on their bills, savings and retirement. Here’s an interesting one: scrap metal recycling.

As some of you may be following: we’ve been working on remodeling our master bathroom here at the Big Day Coming house. During that remodel we have to re-route our supply and drain plumbing since we’re moving around the locations of the vanity and shower. This house was built in the 1970’s when they still used copper for plumbing, so we had these large 1 1/2, 2 and 3″ diameter copper pipes that we needed to cut off and convert over to PVC (which is much cheaper and easier to work with). As a result I had pretty large hunks of old copper. What to do? Scrap it!

I’ve never done any scrap metal recycling before, but my wife’s cousins offered to scrap an old dishwasher we had when they were heading over to scrap their own old appliances. We said “sure, why not”? And they came back with some spare cash for us. So when I had these large hunks of copper I knew to keep them around (after all, you often hear of people tearing out the old plumbing and wiring in abandoned houses solely to scrap the copper).

Well, this weekend we ran over to the local scrapyard and dropped the copper off, as well as the old hot water heater.

The Process

The scrapyard was split into residential recycling and commercial/metal, so you head over to the commercial/metal side. They split the areas for drop off of materials based on the type of material. For copper (and presumably other higher value/rarer metals) you pull up to a large shed where they weigh the scrap on a large scale and write you up a slip. For the water heater (which was apparently tin) and many other less valuable metals you drive your vehicle (truck) onto a scale built into the path/road. They get your weight before entering the scrapyard. You then pull in and tell the guy what you’ve got, and he fills out a slip partially with the codes for the metals you have and directs you where to drive and dump your stuff. Then you head back out and get weighed on the scale again, hand the slip to the employee and they record the weight of the items you just dropped off.

It’s important to remember that they pay different rates for different types of metal, so if you have a lot of scrap you need to sort it out. They’ll sort it out for you/with you at the shed, but I think you need to do this yourself for anything that’s going to be weighed on the vehicle scale.

The Results

I had a bet with my father, who was rather skeptical (to say the least) that the trip would be worth it. He thought I’d be lucky to get $10. Well, maybe he was just counting the water heater, who knows.

In any case, the water heater tallied up 140 pounds of tin, and we had 15 pounds of copper plumbing. And the grand total…?


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Scrap Metal Prices

It turns out that this scrapyard pays $2.75/lb for copper and $0.09/lb for tin. The prices for various metals are going to fluctuate over time, so your best bet is to always call the scrapyard itself and ask about pricing. Clearly if the scrapyard is a long drive away and you need to haul a single 140 lb water heater in a gas-guzzling 4×4 truck then you may be spending more in gas than you’ll get back for recycling it.


While I scrapped items from my own house, I know of people (and have seen many) who will actually travel around and grab items to scrap off people’s lawns/curbs on the night before garbage pickup. In fact, the old bathroom vanity sink disappeared off our curb early that way. So for people who don’t have trucks or the trip isn’t worth it, you can often leave out items for scrappers to pick up. But if you have some time, a burning desire to get some extra cash in your pocket and a large vehicle/truck you can always let it be known that you’re a scrapper and you may find yourself getting calls when friends and family have items to get rid of. The key here is that you need to find valuable metals, or get enough volume/bulk that the trips are worthwhile. The other men in the payout line at the scrapyard seemed to do fairly well for themselves, usually cashing out $100-200 for their trips.


One thought on “How to Earn Extra Money: Scrap Metal

  1. I really liked your story about how your wife’s cousins scrapped your old dishwasher and brought you back some cash. I have an old dryer just sitting on my back porch. It doesn’t work anymore, and we really don’t have a use for it. I will try to take it into the scrap yard when I have a chance.

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