How easy it was to turn scrap metal into cash

My Story: Found Money in Scrap Metal

contributed by Karen

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A scrap metal recycling center has just opened in the next town over from us. We've been reaping a steady small income by taking metal and selling it to them. I collect aluminum beverage cans. When walking the dog, biking, in shopping centers, or in grocery store parking lots, I look for discarded cans, pick them up, and place the cans in a plastic bag in the car. At home, I dump them into big plastic sacks, which are salvaged for free when they are empty of animal food on the local farm. They are great, strong, no cost bags! When I have six sacks full, I stop at the scrap yard on my way elsewhere (saves gas) and sell the cans. Aluminum cans bring about $.51 a pound now. My six sacks generally bring me around $12.

We cleaned out our garage of a lot of broken and discarded metal-like defunct sewing machines, old car parts and dead car batteries and brought them to the scrap yard. The garage was cleaner and emptier, and the scrap yard paid us over $25 for the unwanted metal.

At a yard sale, I bought a solid brass bed for $40. On the way home, I stopped at the salvage yard, and they paid me $140 in cash for it. The footboard of another brass bed that was bought for $20 brought me $40. You need to carry a small magnet with you to test brass.

As I drive around, I pick up metal items, which are put out for the curb. At yard sales, I buy copper scrap, pipes, sheet copper, and fittings and sell them for a profit at the scrap yard. A lovely, heavy set of fireplace tools and massive stand to hold them that I found on the curb for trash pickup proved to be (despite the shiny brass color) mostly heavy cast aluminum with a bit of sheet metal. The aluminum brought a very good price and the sheet metal a few pennies.

Aluminum yard chairs, the kind with the plastic webbing, bring a dollar for the frame if you remove the plastic.

You're not going to make your fortune, but you can earn extra money this way. I put all the money from selling scrap metal into a jar, and when the total reached $500, it was used to buy a CD at the bank.

Recycling scrap metal is good for my personal economy, as it's free money. Bending over to pick up aluminum beverage cans is good for my waistline. Recycling metal is good for America, too. With the aluminum cans, it only takes 3% of the energy to recycle the can as it does to mine the bauxite in a foreign country (damaging our balance of trade) and make a can from the ore. Why let scrap metal go into the landfills when you can instead turn it into cash?

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to

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