Learning About Metal Recycling

Learning About Metal Recycling

New To Copper Scrap? Here's 3 Things You Need To Know About Scrapping Copper Wires

Barry Mills

Copper and aluminum are both commonly found in electrical wires—they're both excellent conductors that resist corrosion. Copper scrap, however, is much more valuable than aluminum. Thankfully, it's also more commonly found in electrical wires than aluminum is—that's why many scrappers choose to harvest their copper scrap primarily from electrical wires. If you're new to scrapping, read on for three things that you need to know about obtaining copper scrap from electrical wires.

1. Stripping Your Wires Is Rarely Worth It

Although you'll find many tools that strip insulation off of copper wires, the process is rarely worth the time. The difference between bare wire and insulated wire is not as extreme as it seems—it's based on the amount of recoverable copper inside the wire.

Remember that the insulation has no recyclable value and adds quite a bit of overall weight to insulated wire. There's not as much copper inside insulated wire as it seems, especially if the wires are small. Stripping copper wires is time-consuming (and dangerous if you're doing it with a knife), and you're unlikely to receive as much copper scrap from your wires as you expect.

One instance in which stripping your wires does make sense, however, is when you find very thick cables with #1 copper wire inside it (typically around the size of your fingers or larger.) It's easier to strip insulation off of these wires, and you'll recover more copper from thicker wires—the insulation on thicker wires contributes much less to the overall weight of the wire.

2. Separating #1 and #2 Copper Wires Makes You More Money

Of course, in order to know that #1 copper wire is inside a cable, you need to know how to spot it. #1 copper wire is sometimes referred to as "bare bright" wire because of its appearance—it's quite shiny, much like a new penny. This is due to the fact that #1 copper wire contains no alloys or contaminants. It's simply pure copper, which is why it fetches a higher price than #2 copper. #1 copper wire is commonly found in wires that carry a substantial amount of voltage, such as in power cords for appliances or within ovens.

#2 copper wire, on the other hand, has a dull and rusty appearance. It may even be coated with shellac in order to protect it from corrosion—this is common in copper wires that are found in motors. Since it's not pure copper scrap, it fetches a lower price. Separating the #1 copper wires from the #2 ones will maximize the amount of money you get from your copper scrap.

3. Computer Wires Are Different Than Other Wires and Fetch a Lower Price

The inside of a desktop computer is often a maze of wires, but they're not as lucrative as you may think. While you can pull a large amount of wires out of a desktop computer, they're considered by scrap yards to be computer wires. They have a large amount of insulation compared to other wires to prevent electrical cross-talk between the wires, which can cause voltage spikes that harm delicate computer components.

However, the sheer amount of wires inside a desktop computer case does make them worth scrapping. You'll also be able to scrap the case itself for its aluminum.

Overall, the secret to making money from copper scrap is being able to tell the difference between copper wires so you can separate them correctly and know when stripping them is worth it. If you're having trouble, you can always take what you've collected to a copper scrap company, such as Dabal & Sons Inc, and ask how they would separate them for recycling.


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About Me
Learning About Metal Recycling

Hello everyone, my name is Suzi Lanson. Welcome to my site. I want to talk about the different tools and techniques used for metal recycling. The backyard in my first home was a graveyard of broken appliances, tools and tin cans of all sizes. I looked at the collection sitting there in horror at first. A friend pointed out that the piles of garbage were actually a recycling goldmine. We transported the materials to a metal recycling facility and split the cash. I was pleasantly surprised to hear nearly all of the items could be broken down and processed to create new products. I will talk about the metal recycling process in more detail on this site.