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Frequently Asked Questions on scrap metal

How many times can metal be recycled?

Unlike plastic, metal can be melted down and used again indefinitely. It has an unlimited lifespan.

What does metal get recycled into?

Metal loses none of its quality when recycled, so it can be made into the same thing it was originally—appliances, building materials, furnishings, car parts, and so forth.

Can rusted metal be recycled?

Yes, metals that are damaged and rusted can still be recycled. But because its value is determined by weight, and rusted metal weighs less, you might not get as much for it. 

What happens to metals discarded with general waste?

If sent to a landfill, metal can take anywhere from 50 to 500 years to decompose.

What Types of Scrap Metal Can Be Recycled?

Scrap metal ranges widely in size—from copper wires and soup cans to large ship and airplane parts. Common sources of ferrous scrap metals include furniture, cars, and construction materials. Here are a few other examples:

  • Appliances: Many everyday items around the house, such as toasters, washers, dryers, and refrigerators, contain one or more types of metal that can be recycled as scrap. ⦁ VMP offers additional information about the best way to recycle these products.
  • Aluminum cans: Some states offer container deposit programs that guarantee a rate of five to ten cents per aluminum can brought to a certified recycling facility. 
  • Lead-acid batteries: These rechargeable batteries, such as those found in your car, are hazardous if not disposed of properly. Most car supply stores accept lead-acid batteries for recycling. Lead-acid batteries are one of the ⦁ most common sources of lead scrap.
  • e-Waste: ⦁ Electronic waste, like ⦁ cell phones, often contains parts that may be sold or recycled as scrap metal. VMP, accept electronics for recycling, which include data destruction as part of our services to protect your security.
    While the vast majority of scrap metal can be recycled, here are a few types that are off-limits:
  • Radioactive metals: Radioactive metals like plutonium and uranium are far too dangerous to be handled by the average scrap yard. Luckily, many recycling facilities have portal monitors, which can detect unsafe levels of radiation prior to handling.  These metals can be found in ⦁ common consumer products like smoke alarms, luminous watches and clocks, old TVs, and more.
  • Toxic metals: Any items containing ⦁ mercury cannot be recycled due to the health hazards posed by this element.  Mercury-contaminated metal may be found in waste produced by the oil and gas industry, some vehicle parts, and electronic scrap from appliances. 
  • Public property: To avoid incentivizing theft, metal signage, guard rails, street lights, and similar items owned by the state, and local government will not be accepted at VMP. 
  • Containers with residue: Items like paint cans, motor oil cans, pots and pans, and propane gas tanks are often treated with harmful chemicals—think ⦁ Teflon—and may contain remnants of toxic oils. Call VMP to confirm that this service is available.


Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, one of the key motivations for recycling is generating additional income. So, how much is scrap metal worth? The price is generally determined by the type of metal, lifecycle stage, and quantity. As a rule of thumb, non-ferrous metals tend to be worth more than ferrous metals. Copper is considered to be the most valuable scrap metal.

A larger amount of any metal may fetch a more competitive price from scrap buyers who prefer to purchase in bulk. Other factors that influence the price of scrap metal include market value based on supply and demand, as with any commodity, and the location of the recycling facility. Always check scrap prices in your area. 

The Magnet Test

Scrap metal can be categorized as ferrous—containing iron—or non-ferrous—not containing iron. But it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two just by looking at them. A better alternative? Simply use a magnet. Scrap metal that contains iron will stick to the magnet, while non-ferrous materials will not. VMP use industrial-strength magnets to aid in sorting and processing.



Metal is a non-renewable resource, with limited ore available to humans over any reasonable geologic time scale. Therefore, when scrap metal isn’t recycled or reused, it drives demand for mining, a notoriously unsustainable practice. This extractive process can contaminate waterways, set off landslides, and lead to deforestation. Recycling scrap metal in licensed facilities can also improve public health by reducing air pollution associated with improper burning in the informal sector.

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