copper recycling for $?

Hey folks, just wondering…

Has anyone looked into the feasibility of doing a “Copper Drive”; that is, send out fliers/emails to collect copper around town, and drive it to a scrap metal dealer?

It seems that at some threshold of quantity, it would be a good money-maker, I’m trying to figure out what that threshold is.

The buying rate is about $2.30 to $3.00 a pound for copper. Scrappers take bare-bright copper at the high price, and insulated wire etc at the low price (brass is about $1.20).

Compare that to aluminum which gets $0.50 a pound (and you need three times the volume to get the same weight).

Seems a no-brainer, but maybe I’m missing something. Thoughts?

The mini-baja team that shares a labspace with us at Northeastern did this a couple of years ago.

They ended up getting a ton of large scrap cabling and just needed to strip it down and bring it to the scrap shop.

We threw in some large chunks of metal we had laying around the lab (like 2’ X 2’ X 1" chunks of stainless) and ended up making well over $1000 from the whole ordeal.

Its certainly worth looking into, and the overhead required is pretty minimal.


We scrap out a LOT of stuff. Our own waste, waste from local sponsors, waste from people who know we scrap, etc…

We’re pretty serious about it, we run an ewaste program, and before we turn over the computers to the ewaste company, we strip out every bit and scrap of aluminum, copper, etc…

We pull $1500-2500 a season. It’s certainly worth it.

When I say we however, it’s 95% done by an extremely dedicated former student and now mentor.

It’s definitely a good idea as a Fundraiser.

Personally, my uncle used to be a plumber and every other week or so he’d bring home ~50lb buckets of copper scrap for my dad to sort through. If I remember correctly, at the time each bucket was worth about $100… Not too bad considering that my dad spent two hours at most sorting through it.

You’d be surprised what else you can scrap for decent money, radiators, old aluminum wheels, etc, if you’re creative enough.

I’d be very apprehensive of this as a project to collect from the community. I’m not saying it can’t be done as Adam’s team sounds like they have figured it out.

But… Many communities in our area have been hit by a large number of instances of vandalism involving theft of metal components, particularly copper. Scrap metal processors typically now require documentation as to the source of metals when brought to their yards. So be careful of your sources and be careful of overzealous collectors.

I’m the manager of my manufacturing location’s “Recycle Center” and our scrap revenue is an important source of income for our facility and carefully monitored. I would never consider giving up one of my largest value streams as a donation. I would have to believe that most other manufacturing locations have the same belief. Even small companies should have recycling programs. (Especially in Connecticut, where recycling is mandated.)

We tried to do an e-waste event this fall, but most of the recycling companies around here charge for monitors and TV’s, which makes it hard to promote in a community.

But I would like to see teams take the initiative to recycle the metals left from each build season. Our team’s scrap goes with the school’s scrap metal, and I think that is fair for all of the support they give us.

Most of our industry based donations are from places that aren’t heavy into manufacture. We never get material from our machining sponsors to scrap our (although sometimes we get some nice chunks to make parts out of). Most of them are from automotive people, plumbers, HVAC, etc…

We also run an ewaste event biannually, and usually make $1500 each time alone on the ewaste itself, a good deal in scrap metal, and then another good deal in parts/components we resell.

In my opinion it is hour per hour less profitable than various other fundraising methods, but there are students that simply do not want, and will never, go out and solicit donations by talking. This is a good fit for those students.

At a minimum I would recommended each team at least keep their own scrap wire and metal to recycle. Even if it only comes out to $100 a year, that’s $100!

It’s a lot easier in CT to get a restaurant or bar to donate their soda/beer/water cans and bottles to your team to return for the 5¢ deposit value than it is to get a company to donate their scrap metal.

For restaurants, it can be a hassle to bring these cans and bottles back to a redemption facility to get the 5¢ per item deposit back, so these are just put in the single-stream recycling bins. Since the single stream recycling bins are often revenue neutral (it doesn’t cost anything, but nor do you get anything), getting donations isn’t particularly difficult. Our team raises over $1000 per year through various can/bottle recycling drives.

But because of the much stricter industrial recycling laws, most companies have a variety of recycling dumpsters for cardboard, various metals, and more. (It’s actually illegal to throw certain items in the garbage that can be recycled) Since these companies are paid for the value of scrap inside, they are not only not interested in donating this scrap, but often install security measures (padlocks, fences, surveillance cameras) to protect this revenue stream.

Our team internally recycles a lot stuff, especially aluminum. The last time we went to the scrap dealer we made $300 through aluminum and steel recycling. We also have literally dozens of old FRC lead-acid batteries* and computer parts waiting for the next city-wide bulk recycling day.

  • Nearly all of our bad batteries are the non-Exide batteries we’d had in FRC since 2007. We have nearly decade old Exide batteries that still have better performance than the newer MK batteries only a season or two old.