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Easy Money 101 Metal Scrapping

Updated on May 18, 2013

Rusty Gold

Scrap yard full of rusty gold
Scrap yard full of rusty gold

So you wanna be a metal head?

In trying times people often look to the obvious places for a hand up. Money is tight and getting tighter by the day. It is no secret we are all struggling to really not only make ends meet but also meet the expectations for our lives that we set so long ago. Those goals are important and for any goal we set to measure our success we must have the financial backing to handle it.

Money is something that just does not grow on trees and getting easy money is actually getting harder and harder, but fret not my friend. Everyday people toss out handfuls of money disguised cleverly as junk metal and old appliances. What is this you say? Trickery!!! Not at all. Scrap metal has been and continues to be a reliable source of supplementary income for people worldwide. The keys are simply knowing where to find the metal you need and knowing where to sell it. For this article we will focus on 3 rather easy types of metal to find and "harvest". We will look at aluminum in the form of cans, copper in the form power chords and electronic scrap, or what I call e-scrap.

I suggest you get out and find a place that buys scrap metal for the aluminum and copper. The e-scrap we will sell online. Let's get started by looking at one of the most profitable pieces of garbage you will ever find, the aluminum can.

Aluminum cans

Soda cans are a great way to earn some income.
Soda cans are a great way to earn some income.

A trick of the trade

Always crush the cans first before taking them in. This will allow you to transport more cans with the same space you have.

Aluminum Cans

Let's do a little math. At this time my local scrap yard is paying $0.70 per pound of cans. It takes roughly 24 cans to achieve a pound. That means for every case of soda you buy you can make 70 cents. I know that really does not seem like much of a turn around considering soda is almost $9 a case nowadays. But, who ever said the cans we sell have to be ones we purchased? Aluminum cans are literally everywhere you look. Let's explore some great methods to find cans.

  • Ask friends and family to save cans for you than pick up the cans once a week or once a month. This is a great way to amass some major poundage on your can haul.
  • Look at parks and recreational areas. people are always tossing cans to the ground and throwing them behind park equipment. Their negligence could be your paycheck!
  • Ask local services like fire departments and senior citizen centers to save cans for you and give a small donation every time you pick your cans up.
  • Adopt a highway and gather cans on the side of the road. This is an amazingly profitable means of getting cans. In one 1 mile stretch of highway my dad managed to find over 15 pounds of cans!
  • Start a can drive. Simply post flyers and advertise a can drive for charity. You bring in tons of aluminum cans and then you simply sell them and split the earnings with a good solid charity.

Cans are a great way to make money and really do serve a great help to the environment. recycling not only pays you but it also gives you that sense of community service.


Copper is a great money maker.
Copper is a great money maker.

Tip of the trade

Old extension chords also contain copper!


Copper is a very valuable metal, so much in fact that people actually die trying to steal copper wire from power lines every day. We are not going to go to that extreme to accomplish our copper rescue! While copper exist in many items and almost everywhere we look one of the easiest ways to get it is often overlooked. Every appliance you have in your home that plugs into the wall is a gold mine in hiding. That power chord is actually copper.

How can we turn that into cash for us? Easy we tear it off all our stuff.... nah, I am just kidding but that is the general idea.

People throw away appliances everyday. You just have to know the day the garbage man comes by to steal your copper. On the days the garbage runs simply drive out a little early and look for appliances that have power chords. All you need do is cut the chord from the back of the appliance and bam! instant copper. Sadly now you must strip the insilation off the wire to expose that shiny copper goodness beneath.

The sad part here is the copper is light and will take a lot to make a significant amount of weight. You have to be persistent on this or you will give up before you make your money. There are other places of interest to look.

  • Places people dump garbage. These places are usually a trove of junk that can yield some excellent copper bearing items.
  • Do weekly dumpster raids of places that might discard such items.
  • Look for appliances right after floods. Seriously these things wash up like fish!

Getting copper is very profitable and if you have the patience to collect a large stockpile of it you can make some real quick easy money.

Scrapping a computer

Electronic Scrap

E-scrap is a growing business right now and one that can generate huge amounts of income. The simplest way to put it is metal from electronic items. This includes cameras, phones, vcrs, and of course computers. E-scrap is very easy to find but it takes a great deal of work to get a suitable amount of the metal needed to really earn.

My favorite method of finding e-scrap is to pick up old computers and gaming systems. These items contain such precious metals as platinum, copper, brass, and even gold. Did you know that a stick of ram for a computer has gold in it? Most people are very unaware of that money making fact.

When searching for e-scrap you want to look for any item containing gold and also any item that has a green board in it. Green boards host all manors of electronics and are very profitable. Some pieces of e-scrap you should be aware of are.

  • Computer ram. it contains small but profitable amounts of gold.
  • Hard drives. Hard drives are very marketable and sell very well.
  • Old cell phones. Cell phones contain traces of gold and some actually contain small amounts of platinum and even silver.
  • Computer processors. These contain gold fingers that can generate a great deal of income if collected in bulk.
  • Copper wiring. Yep, the wires inside a computer are copper and can be sold.
  • Cameras. The internal make up of cameras is teeming with goodies that e-scrap vendors are dying to get hold of.

E-scrap is a very profitable market right now with several companies storming the front to offer high dollar prices. The key is look for companies that offer free shipping or reimbursement shipping. If not you will lose some serious cash in the delivery of your items.

We know what to look for but where can we find it?

  • Schools. Look outside of schools periodically. They often discard old technology and you can clean up on that toss out very easily. Remember that computers also have power chords that contain copper.
  • Dumpster diving. Yep, once again we find our self in this situation but if you find the stuff you need it will be well worth it.
  • Libraries. My library is actually ran by my staff so we often take donations of out of date technology and scrap it our self. Some libraries simply take the items and dump them. Find out if they do and offer to remove the items yourself.

I have left some links in the side bar for selling your e-scrap for top dollar.

Closing up

So there you have it! A great little way to make some extra cash with a little effort. I hope this helps you in some way and would love to hear stories from my readers on the successes they have had doing this. There are ways to make more money from this endeavor like making a forge and creating bars of the precious metal but that is time consuming and dangerous.

You can also remove the precious metals from computers yourself using acids but once again a level of danger exist there I am just not confident in. I wish you the best and may you find your fortune.


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    • lorddraven2000 profile image

      Sam Little 4 years ago from Wheelwright KY

      Forbcrin, you are exactly right. These companies make way more than they pay out. I have a pal that works as a CEO of a scrap recycling firm here in KY and he said that when his company was paying $3 a pound for copper they were reselling it to a corporation for around $9 a pound.

    • forbcrin profile image

      Crin Forbes 4 years ago from Michigan

      Barbara, I would say that he is a multimillionaire... It is a dirty job, however the metals are a very hot commodity, and what they pay is a small fraction of what they are selling it for. Not only that, but they sit on it until the prices reach high points. When you take in copper cable for instance, they strip the plastic and they sell the copper. They pay you for the mix which is considerable lower... When you take a washer for instance, they pay you a few bucks. If you separate the motor and the transmission and you sell them as separate parts, there is a lot of aluminum and copper which is worth more than a few cents a pound for the whole washer.

      When you take in the computer they pay you about ten cents per pound. If you take out the drive, for instance, the drive alone is anywhere between $.25 to $.50 a pound. The power supply is more if sold separately. than sold in the computer as a whole...

      A place I visit once in a while, had a little expo of old musical items and bronze statues. They had one of those toy tractors with pedals for kids. That particular model, which they got in a load of scrap was worth about $1,200 in collectors' auctions. I bet you anything you want they did not scrapped it, or they did not pay the difference on the "treasure trove".

      It is a dirty job, but it has many rewards.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 4 years ago from USA

      It is no joke that you can earn a fortune with scrap metal. My ex-son-in-law retired in his 40's from running a scrap metal business. If the rumors I hear are true, he is now a millionaire.

    • lorddraven2000 profile image

      Sam Little 4 years ago from Wheelwright KY

      I agree. One of the reason I got into recycling was because my area is always been a place people seem to dump garbage and I wanted to help clean it up.

    • forbcrin profile image

      Crin Forbes 4 years ago from Michigan

      I am not so sure getting into scrap metal is easy money, however it is a two-fold activity: take care of Mother Earth and make some money in the process...