Salutations green friends! I’m starting this majestic Saturday’s post off with a story that will be for some of you long winded (as I tend to be); however, I promise you will learn some sustainable facts along the way. I recently went on a field trip to a scrap metal recycling yard with the Board President of Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, Fenton Rood, where much was discovered. I am going to do my best to paint a picture of how this day went, sparing no details, so bear with me.
Fenton and I decided the best plan of action would be for me to meet and ride with him, and thankfully so because scrap yards can easily be overlooked. In my pure excitement and desire to look like a seasoned scrap recycler dressing the part was a top priority. With my minimal knowledge of scrap yard etiquette I opted for my rendition of a tough lady scrapper; t-shirt, jeans, sturdy shoes, and controlled restraint of my excitement… not wanting to expose my inner childlike glee. In contrast Fenton, aka The Scrap Metal Yard Expert, and my personal guide wore normal business casual attire, was up-beat and at ease like always. I realized pretty quickly how off base I was regarding scrap yards, and the day continued in a similar trend.
I hopped into Fenton’s pick-up truck, which was loaded with bags of aluminum cans and other metal scraps, and immediately started in on a tirade of questions. While tasked with navigating the winding roads to our destination Fenton did his best to keep up with my questions about nearly every environmental topic. I will admit that most of my rambling was a result of nervous excitement at being invited to experience the ends and outs of scrap metal recycling. The scrap metal industry makes business sense, and has the added benefit of lowering our environment impact on natural resources. Scrap metal recycling also provides nearly 500,00 jobs, and the scrap iron and steel that is recycled accounts for 84% of new products resulting in 56% less energy being used according to generalkinematics.com.
Typically scrap metal is separated into two categories; ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Ferrous metals contain iron and include steel, these metals have magnetic properties and magnets are often used to identify them. Non-Ferrous metal is any metal that does NOT contain iron such as; aluminum and copper-based alloys. I suggest starting out by collecting aluminum cans to take to the scrap metal yard, because let’s face it who doesn’t have cans around their house or littered around their community? Recycled aluminum can be used in everything from the aircraft industry to sporting goods, and steel is the most recycled material on the planet. Fenton who is an avid recycler, and an overall environmentally responsible person collects most of the cans he recycles as he rides his bike around Oklahoma. If you’re driving around Oklahoma be on the lookout for Fenton who can be seen cleaning up litter strewn on sidewalks, streets and neighborhoods. We arrived at the scrap metal yard toting 8 large 50-gallon bags of aluminum cans and a variety of metal alloys. The value of scrap metal is ever changing, but for those who are curious about the fluctuating rate of scrap metal profits here is the data collected from 2017: $0.36 per pound for aluminum cans, bare bright copper (including wire) $2.20 per pound, copper #1-#3 $1.50-$2.43 per pound, bronze $1.35 per pound, stainless steel $0.35-$0.55 per pound, lead $0.41- $0.73 per pound for current rates visit scrapmonster.com or scrapregister.com .
*Disclaimer; this pause is provided as a means of acknowledging my abrupt segue back into my story.
The atmosphere of the scrap metal yard was a mix of an automobile mechanic shop, junkyard and a hoarder’s paradise. We approached a man that seemed as disinterested as I was excited to be there. I could not help but launch into my numerous questions regarding how the collection process worked. The helpless scrapper was left to deal with my questions as Fenton continued to make the numerous trips to and from his car to retrieve the overflowing bags of aluminum cans. My curiosity peaked as I eyeballed the giant scale that weighs the cans, finding out later that the weight determines how much is paid out to the customer and different scales are used to weigh different types of metals. Our entire exchange took 15 minutes, and sadly I attracted no special attention for being a newcomer to the process.
The scrap metal collection process (the role people like Fenton play) is one of the easier parts of an otherwise tedious process that scrap metal will go through before becoming a new product. When people choose not to recycle metal there is an increase in the amount of minerals that then have to be mined causing natural resources to be depleted. The negative impact on our environment that mining causes is huge; increased sinkhole formation, soil groundwater and surface water contamination, hazardous byproducts including waste water, destruction of wildlife habitat and loss of biodiversity… Woah that’s a scary list verichek.net. Unfortunately, there will always be a need for mining, but reducing how big the need is, is within our power. Reflecting back to my scarp yard experience---where Fenton profited a “hefty” $23.00 I have come to the conclusion that there is no drawback to scrap metal recycling (unless finding the perfect scrap yard outfit is causing you distress). The benefit of scrap metal recycling far out weigh any discomfort that can be found in venturing to the not so glamourous scrap yard, or the act of collecting material that is so readily found in our everyday life. I will leave you with this reminder to play your part in actively sustaining our environment deferring back to my trusty R’s; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
KOB’s very own