Whether you are starting a scrap metal recycling company or looking to enrich your understanding, it is crucial to know the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal. Ferrous and non-ferrous are used for various reasons, so knowing how they affect scrap metal operations can help keep things running smoothly.


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Here is a brief overview of the differences between ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal:

Iron content. Ferrous scrap metal is made of iron and steel and has a magnetic quality. This makes ferrous scrap metal ideal for metal recycling into new products, as it can be easily separated from other materials. Non-ferrous scrap metal, on the other hand, does not contain any iron and is not attracted to magnets.
Resale value. Ferrous scrap metal is not as valuable as non-ferrous scrap metal simply because it is abundant. Steel, for example, can be found in everything from old appliances to construction materials, so ferrous scrap metal is relatively easy to come by. On the other hand, non-ferrous scrap metal, such as copper and aluminum, is less common and therefore commands a higher price on the scrap metal market.
Magnetic feature. Since ferrous metals contain iron, they will show a magnetic response. Non-ferrous metals, on the other hand, do not contain iron; hence they are not attracted to magnets. While this is a simple way to distinguish between the two types of metals, it is crucial to note that there are some exceptions. For instance, some alloys of ferrous metals, such as stainless steel, are not attracted to magnets. In addition, many non-ferrous metals, such as copper and aluminum, can be made into magnets through magnetization. Ultimately, whether a metal is ferrous or non-ferrous depends on its composition and structure.
Durability factor. Ferrous scrap metals are prized for their high tensile strength and durability. Non-ferrous scrap metals are known for their malleability. While ferrous metals, even in their scrap condition, are typically stronger and more durable than non-ferrous metals, the latter are prized for their resistance to corrosion. As a result, non-ferrous metals are often used in recycling applications where ferrous metals would quickly succumb to rust and degradation.
Weight. Ferrous scrap metal is typically heavier than non-ferrous scrap metal. This is because iron is denser than aluminum or copper. As a result, scrap yards will usually pay by the pound for ferrous scrap metal, while non-ferrous scrap metal is often priced by the ounce.
Scrap value. The scrap value of ferrous scrap metal can fluctuate quite a bit, as the price of steel is constantly changing. Non-ferrous scrap metal, on the other hand, generally has a more stable scrap value. This is because copper and aluminum prices are less subjected to market fluctuations.
Melting point. Ferrous scrap metal has a higher melting point than non-ferrous scrap metal. This is because iron has a higher melting point than aluminum or copper. As a result, scrap yards that recycle ferrous scrap metal need furnaces capable of reaching higher temperatures.
Uses. Ferrous scrap metal is mainly used in the steel industry as it can be recycled into new steel products. However, non-ferrous scrap metal is used in various industries, including construction, plumbing, and electrical.
Processing. Ferrous scrap metal is typically processed using a furnace, whereas non-ferrous scrap metal is processed using a smelter. A furnace melts the scrap metal down and separates it from impurities, while a smelter separates the scrap metal from impurities using heat and chemicals.
Recyclability. Ferrous scrap metal can be recycled repeatedly without losing any of its properties. Non-ferrous scrap metal can also be recycled, but it often loses some properties.
Alloys. Ferrous scrap metal can be alloyed with other metals to create new alloys. Non-ferrous scrap metal can also be alloyed, but the alloys produced are not as strong as those made from ferrous scrap metal.

There are a few things to keep in mind when selling scrap metal to ensure that you are getting the most money for your recycling efforts.

Protect them during storage

Before you deliver your scrap metal to the recycling center, it is crucial to take steps to protect it from corrosion. Ferrous metals will rust when they are exposed to water and oxygen for a prolonged period. This can damage the metal, making it difficult or impossible to recycle. To prevent this from occurring, store your scrap metal in a dry, well-ventilated area. If possible, keep it covered to protect it from the elements.

Focus on non-ferrous metals

Scrap metal prices can vary depending on the type of metal and the current market conditions. You will make more money if you show up with a truck full of non-ferrous metals. Non-ferrous metals include copper, aluminum, brass, and bronze. They are typically worth more than ferrous metals because they are more difficult to find and extract. So, if you have a bunch of old pipes or wires lying around, then it’s time to cash in. Make sure to sort your metals before heading to the scrap yard to get the best price possible.

Keep up with scrap metal pricing

It’s essential to be aware of the fluctuations in metal prices. When prices are high, you may be tempted to buy scrap at collection centers in order to turn a quick profit. However, you should be aware that scrap metal prices can change rapidly, and you may not always be able to sell your collection at a higher price than you paid for. Therefore, it’s better to take advantage of free scrap metal when you can find it. This can be done by collecting old metal products around your house or neighborhood. By doing this, you can minimize your costs and maximize your profits.

Final thoughts

Scrap metal can be a valuable resource, but only if you know how to sort and collect it properly. It is crucial to identify the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal. You can quickly learn to sort scrap metal and maximize your profits with some practice.