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cash from scrap - UK

Updated on February 8, 2014

This follows-on from Kemo's US-centric Hub on scavenging scrap. But this huib is very much based on the UK scene.

'why would anyone save their tin cans?' you may be thinking. Well, with aluminium prices in the UK hitting £700+ per tonne and steel hitting £200+ per tonne, the answer is 'because it makes monetary sense'.

With the UK gripped in recession and many people either out of work or struggling on National Minimum Wage, there is a great need to earn some Tax-free income and what easier way to do it than to 'divert' your food/drinks cans/containers away from the Council recycling bin and into a sack for your own financial gain.

There is no 'secret' to turning this bounty of waste into £'s in your (back) pocket, just a bit of common sense and a small initial outlay.

The one thing I would deem an essential piece of kit is a 'Can-crusher'. These reduce what is, in essence, an empty container of air into a small lump of metal. This means more cans per bag, which in turn means more money. Talking of bags, you may get some of these delivered free by commercial companies posing as charities. Rather than filling these bags with valuable clothing, why not use them for your growing 'collection' of metal ?.

Tips of the trade

  1. Separate your steel from your aluminium. This is essential as scarp yards will not take mixed bags.
  2. Crush those tins. The smaller they are, the more fit in the bag.
  3. White goods - If you have an estate car or van, then offering to dump a friend/nieghbour/relations old washing machine, tumble dryer or dish-washer for them. They will think you are doing them a favour, whilst in reality, you have just grabbed yourself a large heavy lump of scarp for nothing.
  4. Cut-out the wiring. Shrouded copper wiring (known as 'Dry bright copper') can fetch upwards of £4k p/T. Cut this out and keep it separate. If you see someone has dumped an old appliance such as a toaster, get out the wire-cutters and hack-off the power cord.
  5. Remove the motor. If you can, remove the electric motor. These are worth considerably more on their own than as part of an item. If your drill packs-up, take the motor out it. After all, it has scrap value when added to the pile.
  6. Take a carrier bag and pair of PVC gloves when you go for a walk. After all, you never know when you are going to stumble upon a dissgarded drinks can or two.

Skip diving

What if I see some valuable scrap sitting in a skip outside someone's house?. It is worth remembering that the contents of the skip belong to whoever ordered the skip in the first place. In the UK, all skip hire companies have a clause in their hire T&Cs stating that at no point do the contents of the skip transfer to their ownership & that the contents remain the property of their original owner until such point as the skip reaches the disposal site, at which point the contents will transfer to the operator of the disposal facility.

So if you see an old stainless steel sink or a washing machine poking out a skip, knock on the door and ask if the owner if you can take it.

Getting rid of your stash.

Building your stash is the hard part. Turning it into cash is easy. Almost every town has at least one scrap dealer. Use the web or Yellow Pages to find them. Make sure to give them a call first to make sure they take both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Some yards operate separate sites for each, so require you to travel between them. The better sites will take both metal types in one yard.

You will require a Hi-Vis, steel toecap boots and sometimes a hard hat to unload your vehicle. Please make sure to ask about site safety requirements BEFORE you set-out. Some sites will have Hats and Hi-vis you can borrow, but don't assume this will be the case.

The better sites will require some form of ID (this is a preventative measure against metal thieves) so don't be surprised if you get asked loads of questions.

As part of a national anti-metal-theft scheme, scrap merchants no longer pay-out in cash.
You will now be paid either by cheque or, the yard can make a direct payment to a debit card.

Tesco now give Green Clubcard Points for recycling cans AND glass at some of their sites. Not worth it unless you already shop there. They have some clever machinery that sorts the cans and bottles out as you feed them in.

Points for cans.

Tesco now operate a scheme where they have automated recycling machines at some of their site. These turn aluminium cans into green clubcard points which can be spent as normal. You get 1 point per 2 cans at present.

Sites that have this facility include :-

  • Colchester - Tesco Express, St Christopher Road
  • Manchester - Tesco Extra at Woodrow Way, Irlam


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks James I will speak with my friend about this.


    • profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      If you plan on doing it as a charity fund-raiser, then you need to register as a waste broker with the Environment Agency. However, there is no reason why the Isabel Hospice cannot join forces with other Hospices or charitable groups to form a co-operative organisation. Then, all each co-partner would need would be a waste transfer certificate issued by the co-operative organisation.

      By the way, if your friend's Hospice has a donations page, then why not post a link.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What a remarkable hub! I am going to check out your suggestion with a friend of mine who is a facilities co-ordinator in our local hospice. The tin cans (and all the other similar stuff) may be another way they can raise money for the Isabel Hospice in Welwyn Garden City.

      Thanks for sharing this and, I'm sure some readers will think about recycling their own rubbish and make a few quid.



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