Our first two scrap guides have explained the different grades of iron and aluminum. Today we would like to explain the different grades of scrap Copper, Insulated Copper Wire, and Brass.
A majority of the scrap copper that comes to our yard is either #1 copper or #2 copper. #1 copper is clean copper tube or wire that contains no paint, solder, or any kind of plating. Lead, Tin, or Silver coated copper must be graded as #2. Any copper tubing that has fittings soldered to it will also be graded as #2. It is wise to try and cut the soldered fittings off so the rest of the tube can be graded #1. Copper with paint on it must also be graded #2 due to lead contamination. It is important to note that when copper oxidizes it will turn green, but this is not considered contamination.
#3 copper is copper sheet. Any copper gutters, downspouts, roofing material, pots, pans, tubs, or decorative pieces will be graded #3. Bare Bright copper is stripped copper wire that has no coating or oxidation.
The different grades of scrap insulated copper wire work off of the same principles as clean copper. Any wire that is plated will be graded #2, while wire that is pure copper can be graded as #1. Copper wire also is graded based on the percentage of copper that can be recovered from the wire once it is stripped. Our basic #2 wire price is based off of a 50% copper recovery rate. Any wire that will not recover 50% copper will be priced less, while wire that will recover more can be priced higher. Basic #1 wire must recover at least 70% copper. The most common example of basic #1 wire is household romex wire.
Common wires with low recovery rates include Christmas lights, telephone cords, harness wire, and wires clipped off of cell phone chargers and similar items. These low recovery wires will be bought as Christmas wire in our yard, which is based off of a 25% recovery rate.
Brass is an alloy containing copper and zinc. Most scrap brass brought to our facility is graded as yellow brass. Red brass, commonly referred to as gunmetal, is most commonly found in valves, gears, and castings. Red brass is worth more than yellow brass because it contains a higher percentage of copper. For material to be graded as Red brass it must be free of all contamination including handles and pipes off of valves. Red brass that is brought to our yard containing any contamination will be graded as yellow brass.