Recycling Aluminum

Discussion in 'Survival & Emergency Preparedness' started by Forerunner, Nov 22, 2009.

  1. Forerunner

    Forerunner Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2007
    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
    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.

    Automotive wheel rims
    Mixed Low Copper Clip, a.k.a. "MLC"
    Painted Siding
    Beverage cans, a.k.a. "UBC"
    Aluminum Ingot
    Old sheet
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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.
  2. Forerunner

    Forerunner Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2007
    Aluminum Ingot is a specialized grade of aluminum,
    more because of the extensive process and equipment
    required to melt, pour and shape the ingots than for
    the alloys involved. Melting aluminum is the quickest
    way to clean, size, condense and prepare the metal for
    The author, near the beginning of his own scrapping
    and recycling endeavors, built a small,
    propane-powered, firebrick lined, tilting furnace
    specifically designed for the purpose of producing
    forty pound aluminum ingots. At that time, and with
    that machine, it took a full day and 100 gallons of
    propane to produce 2000 pounds of clean ingots.
    Today, as with any other productive and profitable
    venture, it is quite controversial to melt aluminum on
    any reasonably productive scale.
    If you've the means, and the "permissions", melting
    aluminum eliminates the "breakage" grade and greatly
    enhances the cleaning, processing and productivity of
    the entire small time aluminum recycling industry.
    There are two specific grades of ingot that the small
    time scrap recycler need familiarize himself with;
    1.1.3. and 1.1.1.
    The numbers represent the percentage of impurities
    allowed, specifically and respectively, iron, copper
    and zinc.
    It is typically easy enough to produce the 1.1.3.
    alloy, but very difficult to produce 1.1.1. The latter
    is generally only sought if pure extrusion, MLC or
    aluminum wire is to be melted. If the small time
    scrapper can produce aluminum ingot, he will likely
    find the buyer very interested
    in the product, and, as specific quality can be
    identified and maintained, very agreeable in the
    pricing. A thirty to fifty pound ingot is ideal.

    Cast Aluminum is generally considered a lower grade
    aluminum alloy.
    Cast aluminum occasionally contains varying quantities
    of magnesium, which can catch fire fairly easily and
    burn with an intense heat.
    Push lawnmower housings are the most common item found
    containing magnesium. Use caution when preparing this
    material for sale with a torch. Better to remove
    bolts, pins and studs with mechanical means, if
    Small engine blocks, some push lawnmower housings,
    larger engine blocks and castings, some industrial
    pulleys, many carburetors, industrial machine frames,
    industrial truck brake and suspension assemblies, most
    barbecue grills, smaller to mid-sized electric motor
    caps, old pots, pans and pressure canners, automatic
    car and truck transmissions, pistons, some older
    playground equipment and many gearbox housings are
    made of cast aluminum. Automatic transmissions and
    pistons, however, if procured in quantity sufficient
    to warrant segregation, and if cleaned of excess oils,
    grease and all steel, are both much higher grades of
    aluminum casting, and can be sold for a higher amount
    per pound. Talk to the buyer if quantities of either
    item can be offered in excess of one hundred pounds,
    Much of the preparation of cast aluminum can be
    accomplished with a maul. It generally pays to do all
    that can be done to remove the steel and other
    impurities by less violent means, such as by wrench,
    hammer and punch or torch, before resorting to the
    sizing maul. The author has scars beneath his right
    eye bearing witness to the danger that cast aluminum
    can pose when processed with a maul. Use eye
    protection and a face shield for cheap insurance
    against your own similar experience. In fact, eye and
    face protection is highly recommended in all aspects
    of scrap metal handling and preparation, especially
    when using power equipment or a cutting torch.
    Cast aluminum generally comes to the scrapper in small
    enough pieces that further downsizing is seldom
    necessary, beyond that which naturally takes place
    during the cleaning and preparation process.
    Being a low grade aluminum alloy, generally,
    specifications for preparation of this material are
    somewhat lax compared to the higher grades. Some
    grease and oil is tolerable, but only as a coating,
    not a puddle. All gear boxes and transmissions must be
    drained, completely.
    A very small amount of steel can generally be left in
    the material, such as the occasional pin, screw or
    bolt that cannot be practically removed.
    Paint is acceptable if not excessively thick. A very
    small portion of rubber or plastic may be acceptable.
    These exceptions should remain exceptions, and not
    become the rule. Don't become lax in cleaning this
    material. If the buyer likes you and you develop a
    reputation for offering quality materials, some small
    details may be overlooked in prepared cast aluminum.
    This does not include the higher grades mentioned,
    i.e. pistons and transmission shells. Use good

    Old Sheet Aluminum is comprised of just about any
    sheet or mixed aluminum material that does not fall in
    the above categories.
    All foils, old road and display signs made of
    aluminum, non-extrusion window frames, window screen,
    aluminum bicycle and exercise equipment frames, any
    sheet aluminum with paint on one or both sides, etc.
    will fall into the old sheet category. One notable
    exception is the sheet aluminum that covers the outer
    portion of semi van trailers.
    This is a very high grade aluminum and should be
    segregated and offered for sale separately from
    regular old sheet, unless there is only a small
    quantity to be had, in which case it may as well be
    Ask the buyer for his preference, as there can be a
    marked difference in the price, per pound, between
    these grades.
    Old sheet, by definition, is a low grade material such
    as is cast aluminum. Therefore, some impurities,
    thicker paints, etc. may be overlooked. Don't become
    too careless. As with any sheet grade aluminum, the
    yard workers and buyer will appreciate the effort of
    sizing it to three by four, or four by five foot
    dimensions. Ask the buyer for his preference.

    Mixed aluminum is just that. Anything and everything
    aluminum, as always being free of steel and other
    impurities, can be mixed and offered to the scrap yard
    for sale, as is. There is no size stipulation.
    Transportation of this grade of aluminum can be a
    nuisance as it is often very bulky and anything but
    uniform. It has ALWAYS been the author's experience
    that aluminum is best sorted, cut to size, baled,
    boxed or stacked on a pallet and banded. The
    convenience of transportation, alone, makes the extra
    effort profitable, not to mention the increase that is
    realized in price, of sorted materials. That said,
    there are, almost invariably, a few items to be found
    in the scrap aluminum pile that just don't fit in
    anywhere. Usually, such items can be included with
    either old sheet or cast, but not always. It is for
    this cause alone that the "mixed" grade is included in
    this writing.
    The all around best packing container for the small
    time scrapper is likely the fifty-five gallon drum,
    with top removed. Such barrels are especially useful
    in transporting the often small and irregular shapes
    of material found in the cast and mixed aluminum

    Aluminum Radiators include any radiator, heat
    exchanger, condenser
    or oil cooler that is composed of aluminum only. Many
    such radiators contain copper tubing, and fall into a
    different, and more valuable scrap category. Aluminum
    radiators commonly include plastic reservoirs and
    other small plastic or rubber parts, as well as steel
    framework and the occasional steel clip or wire.
    Remove all such impurities and be sure that all oils
    and coolants are drained before offering the material
    for sale. Some aluminum radiators utilize interior
    steel tubing and are far better tossed into the
    "Breakage" pile, as they are quite unprofitable to

  3. Forerunner

    Forerunner Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2007
    Neoprene Aluminum Wire is any electrical grade wire,
    braided, twisted or single strand, which is encased in
    a neoprene, or plastic sheath.
    The aluminum alloy is a very high grade, but the
    plastic sheath is not profitable to remove except in
    the largest industrial wire applications, where it can
    be split with a sharp knife and stripped clean by
    mechanical means. Burning the coating from any
    electrical wire, copper or aluminum, is a very
    controversial act, and it often melts the aluminum,
    rendering it very difficult to prepare and lowering
    the grade to cast, unless great care is taken to
    regulate the temperature.
    It is simpler and safer to sell the material as
    neoprene coated. The price offered to the scrapper,
    well-known for producing quality material, if not
    quantity, will be very close, percentage-wise, to that
    of clean aluminum. Some braided, twisted and coated
    aluminum wire is accompanied by a strand of clean
    aluminum wire that has a steel core.
    It is the author's experience that some scrap yards
    will buy the steel-cored aluminum wire for the same
    price as steel-free neoprene coated wire. This should
    not be counted upon, but it would be worth asking the
    buyer for his preference. Being a lower grade of
    aluminum, neoprene coated wire may still be acceptable
    with a small amount of steel attached, such as
    connectors or bolts or staples used to attach the wire
    to a pole or wall.
    If the buyer chooses not to include steel core
    aluminum wire with the clean neoprene grade, he may
    still be willing to pay more for it, per pound, than
    "Breakage", which is the least valuable grade of
    salvage aluminum, and, the topic of the last category
    of this writing.

    Aluminum Breakage, a.k.a. "dirty aluminum", or "irony
    is any grade of aluminum containing steel, plastic,
    rubber, some wood,
    or any other unacceptable impurity. It is the author's
    experience, again, that it almost always pays to clean and
    sort the various grades of aluminum for sale. But,
    again, there are exceptions. There are items that will
    be tossed back into the pile, continually, as the
    small time scrapper begins to understand his trade,
    and learns what aluminum items are profitable to clean
    and prepare, and which are not profitable, if not
    impossible, to clean, and prepare. When the pile
    becomes very small, and all profitable pieces have
    been removed and categorized, it is very likely that
    the leftovers will fall nicely into the "Breakage"
    There are very few stipulations, other than that the
    material should be at least 40% aluminum, by weight.
    This is the lowest grade of aluminum. It is here that
    it is acceptable to push the limits, a bit. The buyer
    will inform you of anything that he sees that he does
    not approve of.
  4. damoc

    damoc Well-Known Member

    Jul 14, 2007
    Northern CA
    just wanted to say thanks. lots of usefull info