Turning Scraps Into Cash


Guest post from Jan of The Nerdy Farm Wife.

A few months ago, my husband lost his job… a mere two days after I was laid off from my place of part-time employment. These two unfortunate events happened shortly after an eleven day power outage played havoc on our normal routine and budget, and wiped out our large supply of mostly home-raised foods stored in our chest freezer.

Talk about a scary time!

Being a man of action and not one to sit around and bemoan our losses, my husband immediately started the process of starting up his own masonry company and began securing small jobs that would payout within a few weeks. In the meantime though, we needed a source of quick cash in order to put enough food on the table to make it until income started trickling in again.

Fortunately, my brother just happened to be making his yearly run to the local scrap metal recycle center and dropped by to see if my husband wanted to ride along. We had vaguely paid attention to the fact that my brother collected soft drink cans every time there was a family function and had even laughed about the fact that he would rummage through the trash for them and how excited his four little girls would get when it was time for “beer can hunting walks with Daddy.”

Laughter quickly turned to admiration, however, once his 135 pounds of collected cans, combined with some ancient copper pipes, a few old radiators and an assorted pile of what could only be described as “junk”, ended up netting him almost $800.00, every bit of it paid out in cold, hard cash.

Inspired, we started scouring the house for items that we could take to the scrap yard, too! Our old stove had been sitting beside our shed, awaiting a trip to the landfill, which is where we normally took appliances once they were beyond repair. Into the truck it went along with our recently broken hot water heater, a badly bent aluminum badminton net frame, unusable scaffolding from my husband’s first home building business, a busted step-ladder, the frames from some ripped window screens and quite a few other odds and ends.

Our load, which was smaller and far less planned out than my brother’s, netted us $185.00. Not a bad pay rate for about five hours spent scouring the house and shed, loading the truck, driving to the scrap dealer, having everything inspected and weighed, getting paid and then driving back home with grocery money in hand!

To find a scrap metal dealer near you, try checking your phone book under “Scrap Metal Dealers.” What they accept will vary, but ours will take items such as: cast iron, motor blocks, air conditioner window units, radiators, broken appliances, copper pipes and wire, transmissions, anything aluminum, and car batteries.

So, check around your house for metal items that you no longer use. You just might find you’ve been sitting on an almost instant cash source!

Jan lives on a seven-acre hobby farm with her family and spends her days chasing chickens, homeschooling the kids, and experimenting with herbs & local plants to make jams, soaps and home remedies. She blogs about these things and more at The Nerdy Farm Wife

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    • says

      Hi J!

      Not long ago, Etsy changed their policies on how you can list herbal-based products so I closed the shop while I explored other options that would work within the scope of my resources. I would like to re-open my doors in a month or so. In the meantime, I’m trying to get my recipes & tutorials onto the blog (and in an ebook format, hopefully) so that others can gain the know-how to make them themselves, if they wish.

      Thanks for the interest! I need to rewrite my FAQs to reflect that change, so I appreciate you bringing that to my attention.

      :) Jan

        • says

          I would like to do that, if possible. :) I have to figure out merchant’s accounts and how that all works. The one month time is because cold-process soaps take a minimum of 4 weeks to cure before using and almost all of my summer stock in depleted. I’m hoping to get some soap-making in this week though!

          • says

            Have you looked into just using Paypal/Paypal buttons to start out with? It’s simple and then you don’t have to mess with applying for/paying for a merchant account. If your business really takes off, it’s fairly easy to then switch over to a real shopping cart and merchant account.

            And yes, you totally need to write that ebook. :)

  1. says

    Great example of how using some ingenuity, and “out of the box” thinking (I know it’s chiche phrase, but it applies here), we can raise some money in hurry if needed. It’s good to have a resourceful mindset!

  2. Kelly Hess says

    My husband did this on the side for extra cash. We had tons of scrap copper pipe in our house that he took in as well as a hot water tank and misc. metal, great way to make some quick cash!!

  3. says

    Nice post Jan! I should write something similar. I’ve been turning metal into cash for the past few years. It’s amazing how it adds up when you know what to save. Too bad you can’t recycle wood furniture that way. I’ve got some dining room furniture that I can’t seem to move on craigslist.

    • says

      Thanks Karl! I usually let my kids at the old furniture with a hand saw, hammer & nails (it’s almost always a hand-me-down piece in the first place) – they come up with some creative uses like pet bunny play yards and tree swings – then we chop up & burn what we can for kindling. :)

  4. Jessica says

    My father is owns a seasonal landscape business. One winter a few years ago he partnered with a widowed fram owner to help her clean the land. They hauled in thousands of dollars in scrap. Doing this allowe him to keep his full time help busy during a time they usually don’t work.

    Recently a family close to my moms house purchased a mobil home in horrible disrepair. (it may have been free, I’m not sure). They gutted it selling anything and everything they could including scrap. It helped provide for them during a period of unemployment as well.

  5. Patti says

    I made my son collect all of our cans and those we found around until he had a huge bagful. We took them to the scrap dealer and made a whopping $5.40. Kind of killed the interest in recycling this way (our family decided to donate them to others). However, if you do have some old pipes or window aluminum, it may pay off.

    • kelly says

      $5.40 will buy a cheap movie at discount stores. It will also buy a big chicken or 2 or more lbs of ground beef. Or it will buy about 5 lbs of beans and rice and that will make a lot of meals! Not sure why you scoff at that.

    • jessica says

      Good for you for realizing you can help others with the money if you decided that it isn’t something that works for you family. We do the same thing :)

  6. Amber says

    I see a scrap metal-filled trucks go down our alley almost every day (there are at least 2 different trucks that I see). And NOW I know why! That pays a lot more than I thought it would.

  7. jennifer says

    i have been saving cans since i was a kid… as a teen my grandfather had a outside storage place he would keep his cans until i could get them… i still save cans only i nornally save the money now as a just in case fond… i have a few just in case fonds… i even pick up trash and cans on a path around my kids school and plan to do more cleaning around where i live… i figure i can cut the cost of the trash bag by using grocery bags also will make the bag easier to carry bring two kids with me… plus coke cap codes free

  8. jessica says

    We had an ancient exercise bike that we needed to get rid of before we moved. I listed it as free on craigslist. I had a man come out to get it who was a scrap metal guy. It worked out great for both of us! He was able to make some money, and I didn’t need to pay money to get rid of it. I think this is a great option for those of us who don’t have the space (no trailer/no truck..etc) to collect but need to get rid of things.

  9. Chris says

    We found the scrap route to be worthwhile when we got rid of our last car. It was a very old station wagon that had tons of mileage on it. When it finally ended up requiring a VERY costly repair (something like a cracked engine block I think) we were able to drive it just far enough to get to the scrap yard where we got $400 for it. We sold the tires seperately for $100.

  10. Karen says

    My kids save cans and bottles. In our state they pay 5 cents a piece. You would not believe the amount that people throw away! In the summer we go to the parks and lake and collect the ones from parties that are just left behind. On Saturday and Sunday mornings we walk the neighborhood and can usually find 20-30 cans and get a good walk in. We cash them in and put the money in the summer fund. Last summer they had $168 ($56 after dividing 3 ways) to spend on whatever they wanted on vacation. They sure were careful of what they spent it on when it was their money they were spending! We have been doing this for the last 3 years. They don’t refer to them as cans and bottles, they say “hey look, there’s a nickel!”

  11. Lara C says

    We had the bad luck to have our old car totaled in the spring. My hubby had it towed home. He stripped all the ‘usable’ parts off of the frame. Stripped everything!!! Sold a bunch of the parts on a forum for Volkswagons. (sold the engine in parts, exhaust, various bits and pieces, etc…) The frame… he took a saws-all, cut it all up, tossed it in the back of a pickup.. and got $300 for it! By the time all was said and done, the insurance payout, the bits and pieces, and the scrap metal, we actually came out ahead after we purchased our new-to-us car to replace the totaled one!

  12. Kathy says

    Reminds me of the time that I took my mom out for the day and returned to find a strange van in her driveway. It was a guy filling his van with any scrap metal he was able to find on my parent’s property! Too many stories about thieves stealing things to sell as scrap for money !

  13. says

    Scrap metal recycling is so lucrative in my area that homes and churches are vandalized for the copper wiring in the air conditioners, copper down spouts from gutters, copper wiring in the overhead electricity lines, and even the decorative metal grates around trees in parks. It’s a news story almost every day here. And the scrap metal dealers say nothing as they accept these obviously stolen items from obviously unscrupulous characters. We’d like to see this type of business either require licensing from sellers, a longer wait time for payment, payment not in cash, or just see it shut down completely in our area, as it enables and perpetuates criminal behavior with it’s business model.

    • Momof5 says

      We see that too, Lea Ann – so discouraging. We’ve helped clean out relatives’ and friends’ homes after they’ve died, and it’s so nice to have something to do with the junk – my grandmother saw very hard times in the Depression, and I’m not sure she ever threw anything away afterwards! But at the same time, the criminality this market inspires is pretty scary. We have a naked-looking arbor in our yard because we were planning to use copper pipe to finish it, but that’s like an invitation to be robbed.

      So I agree with you – we’d like to see it more regulated, even if it means the pay out takes a week or more. In fact, I think there was a change in the rules within our city limits . . . which just means the scrap metal dealers have moved outside the city limits. But readers who want to investigate this should be aware that in some areas, it might be a few days before the pay-out arrives.

  14. says

    We do this about once a year too. We started after renovating a home and watching others going through our rip out pile and taking out all the metal. We asked around and figured out these are what are called “scrap pickers” in our area. We live in a town with much poverty and so men will often drive down alleys and look for metal objects people are throwing away and pick them up toss them in their trucks and then once the back of their truck is full they will make a trip to the recycling center in town. It really does get addicting. My husband and I had no idea the value of what we were throwing away and it has helped us out a few times when our income was lower than normal.

  15. Jennifer says

    My dad saved aluminum cans and turned them into cash to help fun a family vacation to Washington DC. Now I save and collect them to help with the extras.

  16. jessica says

    Enjoyed this post and it is so true. Just last week my husband went to a local dump and loaded up the truck with metal cabnients and other metals people were just dumping and he was paids almost 80$ for 2 hours of gathering! We have decided that for our family of 5 on one income this is something we will check into month to month and see if we can make some extra income for our family!

  17. says

    My father has been doing scrap metal for years. It’s how he paid, in cash, for me to go to a private college, for four years, for me to get my bachelor’s degree! It truly is a science that I only about half understand, but he’s a pro! :-)

  18. Janice says

    A few things to note (at least where I live), different metals bring different prices, our recycling place is glad to quote prices over the phone, copper pays out very well. Also my brother and husband sometimes make sure that the stuff they take is clean, they take different prices for clean or dirty metal. Also wire can be taken in, so if you have some left from a project, it’s worth checking into. Great post, Thanks!

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