Dealing in scrap metal can be lucrative if you are well prepared and do your research. The sources for your inventory are plentiful, and there is an active buyer's market for recycled steel and other metals. A key to this business is to stay tuned to the current market rates for your scrap, which you can get from several sources.
Learning the Terms
Familiarize yourself with the principle scrap steel categories. HMS or heavy melting scrap is the term for recyclable steel and wrought iron. There are two grades of HMS steel: #1 is 1/4-inch thick or larger, while #2 is at least 1/8-inch thick. The prefix SS indicates stainless steel, which is graded depending on the percentage content of various metals and the physical characteristics: tensile strength, heat resistance, corrosion resistance, and formability.
Find Prices Online
Find market scrap prices online. Several websites give comprehensive price quotes and are regularly updated. ScrapRegister.com carries three grades of HMS steel in dollars per metric ton, and five major grades of stainless in dollars per pound. Prices are given for four regions of the United States. Your local scrap dealer may have his own prices posted, broken down into his own categories. For example, Metro Metals Recycling, located in Minneapolis, quotes prices on grade 304 and 318 stainless, stainless breakage, stainless turnings and "bulky stainless."
Testing Your Steel
Bring your scrap down to the dealer for a quote, especially if you're unsure of its grade or proper classification. Unless you're an expert in evaluating steel, actually knowing what you have can be tricky, as this material doesn't typically carry an identifying classification number. Steel BX, also known as armored cable, has served as electrical conduit for about a century, but its value can vary depending on whether it's manufactured from basic steel or more valuable aluminum.
Contact a metals broker if you have a large amount of steel to buy or sell. Brokers work across international borders and negotiate individual deals between suppliers and consumers, which for the most part are metal processors and factories. A broker can arrange inspection of your metal as well as financing, transportation and customs clearance. As of publication, leading scrap metal brokers include Sims Metal Management, DJJ, Alter Trading, Scrap Metal Services and GLE Scrap Metal.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.