Scrap metal recycling can be a great way to make a little extra money for yourself. All you need is a little storage space and a way to transport your haul to the recycling center once you've collected enough metal to walk away with a decent chunk of change. But in order to ensure that you're not wasting your time and storage space, you not only need to know where to look for metal and what to bring to collect, you also need to know what not to bother bringing to the local metal recycling center. Take a look at a few items that you shouldn't try to sell at the recycling center.
Certain Types of Batteries
When it comes to batteries, recycling can get confusing. Regulations vary from state to state, and sometimes from center to center. What really matters is what kind of battery you're trying to recycle. There are many different types of batteries, and not all of them can or should be recycled with your aluminum cans and copper wire.
In most states, regular household alkaline batteries and carbon zinc batteries should just be placed in the trash. These are the non-rechargeable AA, AAA, C, D, 6V, and 9V batteries that you probably use in your remote controls, flashlights, battery-operated toys, and smoke alarms. Usually, neither metal recycling centers nor dedicated battery recycling centers will deal with these batteries. Lithium-ion batteries – the ones that power your camera or computer – are classified as hazardous waste and should be recycled, but you will probably need to take them to a battery recycling center or an electronics store with a buy-back program. Most metal recycling centers won't take them. On the other hand, you can take car batteries to many metal recycling centers. If the center takes junk cars, they probably take car batteries as well. If you have batteries that you're unsure of how to dispose of, your best bet is to call a local battery recycling center for advice.
There are valuable metals in computers, but recycling shouldn't be your first option when you have an old computer to get rid of. A metal recycling center may not take a whole computer – after all, they're largely composed of plastic and glass as well as metal, and the recycling center may not be equipped to strip them down for metal parts.
But that's not the only problem with recycling computers. The other problem is making sure that the computers you need to get rid of are recycled ethically. Currently, around 80% of computer waste ends up in China, Nigeria, or India, where poorly-compensated workers use toxic substances and environmentally dangerous processes to retrieve precious metals from inside the computer, and ultimately leave a lot of plastic parts in landfills. It's better to try to donate your old computer (wipe your hard drive of all personal information first) to a charitable organization that may be able to get some use out of it. If you can't do that, take it to a reputable electronics recycling center instead. Several electronics retailers offer this service for free to their customers, so you can upgrade and recycle your old computer at the same time.
There are certain materials that metal recycling centers can't accept from private individuals. For example, you're not going to be able to bring a manhole cover to a recycling center unless you're recycling it on behalf of government agency. Metal recycling centers can't accept them from private individuals because doing so can encourage unscrupulous scrappers to steal the covers.
Similarly, many recycling centers won't accept catalytic converters unless you're a certified mechanic, or window air conditioning units unless you can provide proof of ownership. Beer kegs, grocery carts, and railroad steel are also likely to be turned down if you bring them in as a private citizen. These restrictions all exist to discourage theft. Not only will you probably be unable to sell these items, you may attract unwelcome scrutiny from local law enforcement if you try.
Most scrap metal recycling centers will be happy to provide you with a list of items that they do accept. Make sure that you check with all of the centers in your local area, as some may accept things that others don't. You'll save time and make more money if you ensure that you're only bringing in items that you will definitely get paid for.