Nonferrous Metal Photo Gallery - How to Identify Nonferrous Metals

Scrap Metal Collector's Photo Guide - Nonferrous

Aluminum castings shown in image. Aluminum is the highest volume nonferrous metal in terms of recycling recovery. West Coast Metal Recycling

Nonferrous metals can be very valuable to the scrap collector, as they are to the metal recycling industry. Such scrap accounts for more than half of total U.S. metal recycling industry earnings, in spite of being only a modest proportion of total scrap metal recovery.

In 2010, U.S. nonferrous scrap recovery included:

  • 4.6 million metric tons of aluminum
  • 2 million tons of nickel/stainless steel
  • 1.8 million metric tons of copper
  • 1.2 million metric tons of lead
  • 162,000 metric tons of zinc

This photo album shows some common forms of scrap nonferrous metals that a scrap metal collector may encounter. All images are shown with permission of the owner, West Coast Metal Recyclers.

Aluminum Recycling

Scrap aluminum wire. West Coast Metal Recycling

Getting to recognize the major types of scrap metal is an important step in becoming a successful scrap metal vendor.

With a recovery of 4.6 million metric tons annually in the U.S, more aluminum is recycled than any other nonferrous metals. Aluminum is light and typically easy to bend. It will not give off sparks on a grinding wheel, and is nonmagnetic, unlike similarly colored metals such as steel. Although aluminum comes in various grades, it is difficult to discern between them.

Aluminum Recycling

Extruded aluminum. West Coast Metal Recycling

As with any metal, less contamination improves the value, such as disassembling equipment to separate different types of metal, or removing other contaminants such as encasement with concrete or other material. Webbing and screws should be removed from lawn chairs. Look for aluminum scrap in housing and demolition projects, including door and window frames, gutters, siding, and wire. In auto shops, aluminum can be found in transmission casings and pistons.

Copper Recycling

No.2 copper. West Coast Metal Recycling

Copper is the third most widely recycled nonferrous metal. In fact, over 80% of copper ever produced still exists. It is easy to identify because of its distinctive colour, and that it is nonmagnetic. When placed against a grinding wheel, copper will not spark.

Copper Recycling

Bright and shiny copper. West Coast Metal Recycling

There are several grades of scrap copper. The highest value is No. 1 heavy scrap, which is clean, uncoated and unalloyed copper, while the lowest is in the form of copper – aluminum radiators.

Stainless Steel Recycling

Old stainless steel sinks. West Coast Metal Recycling

Stainless steel is the second most commonly recycled nonferrous metal. It encompasses steel alloys that contains a minimum proportion of chromium. Another metal commonly used as an alloy in stainless steel is nickel. Unlike other nonferrous metals, stainless steel can be magnetic, depending upon nickel content. More nickel reduces the magnetic properties of the stainless steel. Stainless steel will spark in response to a grinding wheel.

Stainless steel is often found on countertops in restaurants of commercial food preparation plants, dairies, beverage plants, and more. In house remodeling, old stainless steel sinks find their way into the recycling stream.

Lead Recycling

Batteries are the most common source of scrap lead. International Lead Association

Lead is a soft and heavy metal. It is gray and dull in appearance, but bright when cut through the tarnished layer.

Collectors should be concerned about lead toxicity. Less lead is used today than in the past because of negative environmental impacts. Common sources of scrap lead are vehicle batteries, lugs, and wheel weights. The recovery rate is over 96 percent for battery recycling.

Brass Recycling

Yellow brass. West Coast Metal Recycling

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, in addition to small amounts of other metals including manganese, tin, iron or aluminum. The color range of brass includes red, yellow, gold and silver. In terms of magnetic attraction, it can show from nonmagnetic to slightly magnetic. On the grinding wheel it will range between no sparking to short red sparks.

Brass Recycling

Red brass. West Coast Metal Recycling

There are many different types of brass. Red brass, also known as gunmetal, is a copper-zinc-tin alloy. Thanks for joining our photo tour.