Australians are not the best at recycling metal. Of the 48 million tonnes of metal waste produced between 2006 and 2007, only 52% was recycled. By recycling metal, you can not only help save the environment by reusing valuable resources, but you can also recoup some of the expenses that went into purchasing the metal in the first place. When recycling scrap metal, you can easily maximize the value of the copper by cleaning it before taking it to the scrap yard. Here's 3 copper cleaning tips that are easy to follow.

Avoid Using Abrasive Cleaners or Steel Wool

Although it may be tempting to use abrasive cleaners and steel wool to clean any scrap copper you have lying around, hold in that urge and do the job properly by using a soft cloth. Abrasive cleaners include any and all detergents that contain alkaline-based, ammonia-based or acidic-based cleaners. These cleaners will eat away at the outer layer of the copper, and the steel wool will scratch the surface of the copper. This will expose underlying copper to the elements, which can cause it to easily rust.

Never Use an Open Fire to Burn Insulation Off of Copper

You might find some old copper pieces, like copper wire, lying around covered in insulation. Removing the insulation and the contaminants from the copper can easily improve its overall value. Insulation on copper wires or other copper pieces should either be manually stripped off using a razor blade or burned away with an approved incinerator. It's important that you never use an open fire to burn insulation off of copper.

Open fire will result in relatively low-temperature burning. The temperature is too low to burn off the insulation and the contaminants on the copper. Instead, it will release pollutants, like dioxins, furans, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, into the surrounding air, water and soil. These pollutants are toxic and can be harmful to human health.

Separate the Copper by Grade

Another nifty trick is to separate the copper collected by grade. Although you are not technically cleaning off contaminants or dirt particles from the surface of the copper pieces, separating the copper into its respective grade and quality levels reduces the workload of the recycling centers. As a result, most recycling centers are more than happy to pass on these savings to you. If you fail to separate the copper by grade, you'll usually get paid for the lowest quality copper in your entire load. This can shave off a good amount of the actual value of the scrap copper collected.


Recycling metal is beneficial for not only the environment, but also to your wallet. If you have the time, clean up the copper pieces before dropping them off with the metal recycling company. You'll be surprised at how much more you'll be compensated for each load that you bring in.