Nonferrous Metal Scrap

Nonferrous metals include a wide range of materials outside of the realm of iron and iron-based steel, and they are typically characterized as nonmagnetic.

Compared to ferrous metal scrap, nonferrous comprises a smaller percent of the scrap metal market by tonnage, but is generally more valuable by the pound.

OWC pays you for nonferrous materials, in part, based on how well you prepare your scrap for our processing facility, and according to grade condition, as explained for each of these categories.

Aluminum Scrap

Aluminum Cans

We’re talking about your classic aluminum can off the grocery store shelf. Separate out any steel or tin cans you may have. Also, make sure your aluminum cans are completely empty of fluids or any other contamination. No glass, plastic or aluminum foil.

MLC Aluminum

M-L-C stands for “mixed low-copper.” This is a very clean mixed aluminum alloy. It can be tubing, solids, structural pieces, and heavy gauge sheet. Further, it does not include items such as radiators, road or highway signs, screens, baseball bats, bumpers or sealed containers. If you bring in any of this material, keep it free of steel, wood, rubber, plastic, caulk, dirt or contamination of any kind.

Aluminum Siding

The siding classification we recycle includes clean siding, downspouts, fascia and soffits. No steel staples, nails, screws, insulation, dirt or other contaminants should be present.

Old Sheet Aluminum

This is a grade below MLC and siding. This material can have a very small amount of steel contamination equating to a few screws in a 4’ x 8’ sheet. It might include window frames, door frames, sheeting with some caulking or a couple of screws, pots and pans or slightly contaminated structural pieces. No wood, glass, dirt, trash or sealed containers.

Unclean Aluminum

This is the lowest aluminum grade for aluminum that is too contaminated to comply with the old sheet grade. There must be a minimum of 50% aluminum by weight. No trash, dirt, fluids or sealed containers.

Cast Aluminum

More specifically, this is clean cast aluminum, such as grill lids, clean cylinder heads and various other castings. This material can be identified as porous and will break rather than bend. Any cast aluminum you bring in may have only a very small amount of steel equating to 2% by weight maximum. No wood, rubber, plastic, fluids, sealed containers or dirt.

Aluminum Car Rims

This classification does not include chrome plating, valve stems, wheel weights, plastic facing or steel attachments of any kind.

Insulated or Bare Aluminum Wire

This can be bare electrical wire without insulation or any insulated aluminum wire used for electrical wiring without any other attachments.

Brass & Copper Scrap


Brass is a metal that can be a bright yellow to red in color. It can also be plated, as in the example of plumbing fixtures (which are acceptable).

Keep in mind, there are many metal items that are made to look like brass, but are actually aluminum or steel. Since brass is non-magnetic, you can discern a steel imitation by holding a magnet to it. For aluminum imitations, you can file the metal surface to see if the item has the yellow to red appearance underneath.

Brass is used in faucets, water vales and fittings. There are also brass bolts, bars, rods and many decorative pieces found around the home.

For maximum dollar, your brass recycling items have to be clean, without any steel or other metal attachments (except copper). Faucets and valves, for example, will need to have any steel or aluminum pieces removed.

Any brass that has steel or other attachments is termed “brass breakage,” and is purchased at a much reduced price.

Bare Bright Copper Scrap

Bare bright is expected to be very clean and pure, uncoated, unalloyed copper. It is normally copper higher than 99% pure, used in electrical transmission.

This usually will include electrical wire that has been stripped from its insulation and is free from tarnish or any other impurities that affect its “bright” and shiny appearance. This can also include buss bar that is clean and bright without any plating or attachments of any kind.

#1 Copper

This can be copper tubing without any solder, paint or corrosion visible. Normal discoloration from age is acceptable.

There cannot be any attachments, such as brass, iron, etc. This can also be electrical wire without insulation, plating, enamel or attachments of any kind and no smaller than 16 gauge (pencil-lead diameter or larger). Burnt wire must be free of ash and cannot be brittle.

#2 Copper

This can be copper tubing that contains any solder, paint, brass fittings or visible corrosion. It can be bare copper wire that is plated or enameled. It can also be wire smaller than a pencil lead or solids with plating or enameling. Burnt wire must be reasonably free of ash and cannot be brittle.

Sheet Copper

Light gauge, unalloyed copper sheet or clippings. Normal oxidation allowed. Examples are copper gutters, downspouts, kettles and decorative light-gauge pieces. There cannot be any steel nails or attachments, heavy caulking, roofing asphalt sealer, wood, plastic, or any other contaminants.

#1 Insulated Copper Wire

There is a wide range of electrical wire that may be classified as #1 insulated. Generally, this is insulated wire that has a 70% or greater recovery—meaning a minimum 70:30 (percent) copper-to-insulation ratio. There should not be any brass ends or connectors of any kind. Watch for plated wire. Often wire with the “cloth” type insulation will be plated. Any plating creates a #2 copper that earns less money.

#2 Insulated Copper Wire

#2 insulated wire will have a 50% or greater recovery—meaning a minimum 50:50 (percent) copper-to-insulation ratio—or be insulated wire with plating. Plating is indicated by a silver coloration of the wire under the insulation. No large connectors, outlets, junction boxes or steel parts.

#3 Insulated Copper Wire

#3 insulated wire will have a 35% or greater recovery—meaning a minimum 35:65 (percent) copper-to-insulation ratio. This is generally communication wire and other heavily insulated wire with fine strands of copper. No large outlet blocks, computer mice, charger transformers or steel parts. Any wire with a lower recovery than 35% would need to be assessed and priced accordingly.

Brass Breakage

This is a copper and/or brass material with iron attachments or other alloys attached, such as aluminum or stainless, that requires we process the material before it can be recycled. Prepping your items—for example, in this case, removing these attachments—to minimize our processing can upgrade your copper to earn you more money.

“Brass breakage” also includes copper and/or brass material with any contamination that would not allow it to be classified in a higher grade.

Stainless Steel & Lead Scrap

Non-Magnetic Stainless

Non-magnetic stainless is silvery in appearance. It is a very rust-resistant, heavy like steel and cannot accept a magnet if you held one to it. It also cannot be cut with a normal torch.

Stainless steel is used to make sinks, pipes, valves and sheet. However, some sinks are made of magnetic stainless steel, so if you are unsure, use a magnet to test. Non-magnetic stainless needs to be free of any contaminants such as steel, aluminum, copper, wood, plastic, or glass. In the example of stainless sinks, be very careful of brass strainer baskets, faucets, or brass drain traps still attached. Copper and brass are very serious contaminants to stainless steel. They are harmful to the stainless alloys when recycled together. Just as importantly, you can receive much more money for these items when you sell them as seperate items. Non-magnetic stainless with contaminating attachments becomes "unclean stainless" at a much reduced price.

Magnetic Stainless


In many applications, where the objective is to achieve a stainless steel appearance at a much cheaper cost, manufacturers will use a magnetic “stainless” material. As the name indicates, it will accept a magnet.

This material is used in many of the same applications as non-magnetic. An example is the sheeting on a stainless appliance.


This is a very heavy metal, but soft and malleable.

Lead from joints in old cast iron pipe, lead sheets and lead pipe.

Lead recycling items must be clean and free of steel, plastic and other contaminants. The only exception is lead wheel weights, which have a steel clip.

Radiators & Motors

Auto Radiators

These are usually found in older vehicles. They are constructed with brass end tanks soldered to brass-tube/copper-fin cores. All steel and plastic must be removed or they will be purchased at a lower “unclean” price.

Aluminum Radiators

This classification includes aluminum automotive radiators, clean aluminum heater cores and aluminum cooling condensers. All steel and plastic must be removed or they will be purchased at a lower “unclean” price.

Aluminum/Copper Radiators (ACRs)

These are mainly the radiators used in air conditioning. They are comprised of copper tubes with aluminum fins. They will normally have steel attached to them for mounting purposes, which must be removed, or they will be purchased at a lower “unclean” price.

Heater Cores

This classification is mainly limited to older vehicle heating systems. They are comprised of brass and a great deal of solder. They must have all plastic and steel removed or they will be purchased at a lower “unclean” price. Newer heater cores are made of aluminum or aluminum fins with plastic tanks and would fall into the aluminum radiator category.

Electric Motors

This nonferrous-metal recycling grade includes all electric motors, starters, alternators and generators. Any plastic or excessive steel, such as shrouds or large blades, are to be removed. Light ballasts are NOT accepted due to the potential presence of PCBs.