Aluminum is one of the most commonly available metals to recycle. Here is a brief representation of my experience with the metal. Aluminum is generally the most abundant non-ferrous metal to be found in the recycler's world. It is a strong metal that weighs roughly 33% the weight of steel, and is commonly used for cast engine parts, framework in many applications, sheeting for floors and walls in the heavy truck and trailer industries, siding and guttering in residential construction, electrical wiring and food and beverage packaging, flooring material in some hog confinement buildings, occasional roofing on older, WWII vintage outbuildings (as steel was rationed during that time period) and occasional metal grain storage bins, etc. There are more grades of aluminum in the recycling industry than any other metal, so varied are it's forms, alloys and uses. Following is a list of the grades most commonly sought by various scrap yards, ranging from the most valuable, per pound, generally, to the least. Extrusion Automotive wheel rims Mixed Low Copper Clip, a.k.a. "MLC" Painted Siding Beverage cans, a.k.a. "UBC" Aluminum Ingot Castings Old sheet Mixed Aluminum Radiators Neoprene coated aluminum wire, without steel reinforcing wire Breakage, which is mixed grades of aluminum with steel or other impurities comprising up to 60% of the material, by weight. Extruded aluminum is most commonly used in framework. It is generally found in the form of structural angles, flats, channel, pipe, I and H beams, etc. It has the appearance of having been literally "extruded", as through a playdough press, because, well, it has, sort of. The small lines left by the extrusion process are usually obvious and run parallel to the length of the material. Framework along the sides of semi van trailers are one of the most commonly seen forms of extrusion. This grade of aluminum contains one of the purest and highest quality alloys. Other common extrusion applications are aluminum lawn chair frames, window frames, electrical conduit tubing, storm door and sliding glass door frames, etc. One common application containing the same alloy that is uncharacteristic of the general form extrusion takes is semi tractor/trailer wheel rims. Smaller automotive rims contain a different alloy and therefore do not fall into the extrusion category. As extruded aluminum is a very high grade alloy, strict attention must be paid to it's preparation for sale to the metals yard. There can be no plastics, rubber, steel or foreign metals, such as the zinc corner inserts commonly found in residential window frames, still attached to the aluminum. Heavy paints, caulking and tar must be removed, though a regular light coating of paint is acceptable. The salvage buyer will appreciate the extra effort of sizing the metal to approximate four foot lengths. This step is not difficult when handling the material for processing and can be accomplished with a hacksaw, cutting torch, masonry circular saw or, if you are so equipped, with a hydraulic scrap shear. When using a cutting torch in the preparation of nonferrous metals, the greatest productivity, by far, will be realized with the use of acetylene gas over that of propane. Acetylene burns approximately 2000 degrees, F, hotter than propane, and, therefore, melts the metal much faster. As the relationship between small time scrapper and buyer matures, the effort of sizing the material will be reflected favorably in the price paid for the finished material. There are some grades of aluminum that can be skimped on a bit in the processing. Extrusion is not one of them. Automotive wheel rims are an extremely high grade of aluminum casting. At times, this grade is more valuable than the extrusions and MLC grades, but generally the salvage yards won't make any effort to admit to this. Get to know the buyer, and don't be afraid to pry a little in determining the worth of your sorted aluminum grades. Most small time scrappers do not sort their aluminums. They merely settle for removing the impurities from the material and then sell it mixed. It has been the experience of the author in that the Biblical maxim,"There is profit in all labor", holds especially true in the metals recycling industry. Automotive rims need merely be stripped of the tire, rubber or brass valve stem and all lead wheel weights. A very few rim types contain steel inserts at the lug bolt holes. These must be punched out or burned out with the torch. Any hub cap must be removed. The Mixed, Low Copper grades of aluminum are very similar in alloy to the extrusions. Their respective values are generally close, if not overlapping. MLC is characterized by any type of aluminum sheeting, except for aluminum foil, that shines of clean metal on both sides. This includes most aluminum pressure tanks such as those used in the carbon dioxide bottling industry. Such tanks must have the valve removed and be cut in half before they can be sold as MLC. There can be no paint or impurity of any kind attached to the material. The buyer will appreciate the effort of sizing the sheets to approximate three foot by four foot dimensions. Depending on the size of the yard's balers, four foot by five foot sheets may be acceptable. Again, it is not crucial to size the material any more than it may take to render it small enough to transport, but the price will reflect the convenience to the yard that can be added by sizing. An acetylene cutting torch is not the fastest, but, in the author's experience, by far the most economical means by which to cut sheet aluminum. Very little oxygen is needed when cutting aluminum. The material will not blow out of the way as steel does, but merely melts away. The process is quicker, the thinner the sheet material being cut. Again, MLC is a grade of aluminum that pays best to prepare to near perfection. Painted Siding includes all residential or commercial aluminum siding, guttering, facia, soffit, flashing and trim materials. Small amounts of tar or paints are acceptable. All insulation backing must be scraped free of the back of the siding. All steel staples or nails must be removed. The buyer will appreciate having this grade sized to four or five foot lengths. For the convenience of scrapper and buyer, alike, it is of benefit to stack this material in bundles and tie it securely with any aluminum wire. Painted siding is a mid- to higher grade aluminum, and careful attention should still be paid to its preparation. Aluminum Beverage Cans, or "UBC" grade aluminum, has traditionally been one of the most abused grades in the industry, by the seller. Most people who visit scrap yards do so with less than twenty pounds of used aluminum beverage cans. Often times, people who are adversely affected by failing personal economies can be seen walking the roadsides, picking up used beverage cans to supplement their income. Having undertaken this activity many times for the purpose of general, charitable cleanup, it is the author's experience that mortgages and car payments, generally, will not be made by the sale of what quantity of aluminum can be ordinarily gleaned in such a fashion. Years ago, it took less than twenty cans to make a pound of aluminum. As the industry has refined the process and cheapened the finished product, it now takes over forty cans to make a pound of aluminum. Scrap yard workers the world over have become very watchful of the quality of aluminum beverage cans offered to them for sale. Moisture, ice, sand, cigarette butts and ash and other impurities are often found in the cans, all too often placed there purposefully by the seller, to increase weight. Become one of those who are known for offering for sale a high quality product. If this principle is compromised once with the buyer or yard workers, it will take some time to regain their trust, if ever. There is no prerequisite preparation necessary for aluminum beverage cans, but crushing them will make transport much more productive, in the event that a larger quantity is involved. Always making sure the cans are dry is another point to be chalked up with the buyer. Transporting cans is easier if they can be bagged or placed in large boxes or barrels.