What Not To Take To A Scrapyard [edited. hat tip cmaukonen]

Posted: January 15, 2012 in dumpster diving, scrapping

“I’ve got about a thousand dollars in my wallet. How much would you like to borrow? Five? Ten?”

Even if I had a thousand dollars in my pocket, I would continue to dumpster dive and scrap. What this country sends to the landfill each day is shameful.

Thank goodness for scrap right now. Since we are open about our scrapping activities that get us by, people often initiate conversation with us. Recently, a man with an excellent full-time job told my husband that he would not be able to get by without supplementing his income with the cash that he gets from recycling scrap metal.

During that conversation, they got to talking about air conditioners.

Before I begin this discussion, if you are new to this subject and curious about just what a scrap metal is, please read this article.

So, let’s begin with air conditioners. These items are very heavy, and they are laden with two money scrap metal elements: copper and aluminum. There is a honeycomb looking structure in an air conditioner that the scrap yard calls a copper-aluminum radiator. These things are worth their weight in gold and, a couple of these things a month can mean the difference between eating and not eating, if you are not already eating for free from the dumpsters.

Here is an excellent article with a great photo, from ScrapMetalJunkie on how to scrap an air conditioner:


Unless the unit is small, you will need at least a couple of people and, be sure to wear gloves because scrap aluminum is very sharp.

Let’s talk about the freon gas in an air conditioner. Again, from ScrapMetalJunkie is the statement:

WARNING: AC units contain freon and other refrigerants regulated by the U.S. federal government under the Clean Air Act. Briefly breathing freon will cause little harm to you physically; but if you are caught releasing freon by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) without an HVAC license (even with the proper equipment) you will be fined tens of thousands of dollars and/or jailed.

Never take freon into a scrap yard. Freon is manufactured in a lab, and it is destructive to the ozone layer. Other commonly found discarded items that contain freon are TV sets and older computer monitors, as well as refrigerators. Edited. hat tip cmaukonen.

What can you do?

Well, you hope to find units that are already free of the stuff. The sad fact is that folks still take air conditioning units out behind the woodshed and get the job done.


We made some calls in our area and found the answer. First of all, hardly anyone is licensed and has the proper equipment to remove freon. We finally located one place, and they quoted us a starting price of eighty dollars- just to walk in the door and begin the process. We believe that freon removal should be free of charge. Our government cannot realistically control freon release unless and until it is willing to fund freon removal.

Other items not to take into a scrap yard:

1. Refrigerators with food still in them. Do not risk getting yourself banned from a scrapyard by cheating on your scrap weight with some food. The stuff rots and smells, and it is rude and annoying for the workers in the yard.

2. Anything radioactive. Unfortunately, how would you know, right? Many yards do not screen for such tainted metal. Our yard does. Be sure to approach the initial scale slowly so that you can be screened. If you have had any sort of a medical radiology procedure, you, but not your load, will likely alarm the Geiger counter; the yard will allow your load to proceed. Tainted metal is the subject of another blog, with both affirmation and denial of its existence in the retail market from various sources.

3. Sort your junk before you get to the yard, and be smart about it. I have seen people unknowingly unload truckloads of aluminum onto the sheet metal pile, and receive a fraction of the scrap price for their valuable load. I once stopped an air conditioner guy from doing just this. Money metals will not stick to a magnet. A magnet is a must-have for a scrapper, and the magnets are often available as key chain additions at the scrap yard.

4. Gas tanks. Gas tanks must be removed or otherwise empty with some sort of large hole in the bottom. This goes for lawnmower gas tanks.

5. Tires. You will likely get penalized for tires, depending on the yard.

6. Wood. I have been penalized for taking wood doors covered with sheet metal into the yard. Scrap yards hate wood.

7. The same goes for fiberglass. Those wonderfully heavy cubicle desks often have fiberglass tops. These must be removed.

8. Another note on junk: Christmas lights have a lot of plastic. Some yards now offer only a fraction of the electrical cord copper price for Christmas lights, and they are almost easier to unload with the sheet metal.

Fake trees, by the way, are good sources of scrap, but they are prickly and difficult to handle sometimes.

9. Also: Make a smart decision about electric motors. We used to break down all those vacuum cleaners, and it took up a great deal of time. Now, we simply get most of the plastic off of them, and put the motors with the sheet metal for a reduced rate.

10. Do not leave particle board attached to anything at the scrap yard.

11. In a pinch for some cash? Take a look at the bottoms of recliners and couches and seats from cars that have been discarded. These things often contain a great deal of metal that can be easily removed with a simple ratcheting Phillips screwdriver.

12. Also true of discarded furniture: Drawer pulls and doorknobs can be wonderful sources of brass, and brass is a money scrap metal.

This may interest you: We have been told that the main source of ozone destruction currently is methane gas from the stockyards.

More information on scrap is here.

“My business is pleasure, George.”


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