Scrapping Season

Spring is the best time of the year for scrap metal.  I know I've mentioned that my husband Mark does scrap, so I thought I'd write a blog post in ode to scrap season.

Mark got into scrapping shortly after we bought our first house.  We had a dinosaur of a furnace in the basement, and after removing, it, he brought it to the scrap yard.  If I remember correctly, he got about $100 for it.  (It was HUGE).  The next day, right around the corner from us, he found another furnace!  He took it to the scrap yard, and got about $50 for it (it was significantly smaller).  He was hooked.  In those days he owned a little Chevy S10.  We payed for most of our home's renovations with scrap metal money.  I dug up a photo of that furnace!

Back then, Mark would drive around the neighbourhood, and fill up his truck and bring it to the scrap yard.  He would get anywhere from $50 - $75 a trip, depending on what was in his truck (unless it was a furnace or something awesome!).  It may not seem like a lot, but after a few trips it starts to add up.  Along the way, he has learned about different metals, and how to sort things to get the most money out of scrapping.

I often go scrapping with Mark.  We get a coffee, and spend the evening driving around, chatting, looking for metal.  In Halton, they have bulk pick-up days, so by using their online calendar, we can find which neighbourhoods are scheduled for bulk waste.  Coming across a find like the photo above is every scrappers' dream.  Appliances are worth $15-$25 each, and patio furniture is often aluminum (rust-free metal), which is worth significantly more than steel.  BBQ's are a good find too - the tops and bottoms are (usually) made from cast, and a BBQ can bring in anywhere from $15-45.

Hamilton is FULL of scrappers.  They are Hamilton's finest, that is for certain.  Mark calls them "Steel Town Pirates".  They are usually older guys with big rusty beards and bandanas tied around their heads.  Because Mark is working out in Toronto, he can't make it back in time to go to the yard, so I have been taking the loads for him in the morning.  I had to snap a photo of this guy in front of me on the scale.  His little Tercel was full of metal.

As I was unloading beside him, he says to me, "Did you load that up all by yourself honey?"  I said "I sure did!"  Well, he was so impressed.  We go to Posners, which is Hamilton's friendliest, cleanest scrap yard.  They give the best prices, too.  The guys there usually help me unload my trailer, and when we go into the office to cash out, the ladies give the girls freezies.  We have become quite the hit at Posners.  These scrappers can be a rough bunch, but put them in a room with two little girls and they are cooing and smiling away.  So funny.

So when I go, I first have to stop by Hans, who determines what kind of metal is in my trailer.  I bring the steel seperately from the special metals (aluminum, copper, etc.)  There are 3 kinds of steel:
- White Tin (metal with plastic/wood attached, ie. fridges, desks)
- Black Tin (clean metal with nothing attached)
- Mixed (both white and black tin)
He usually gives Mark white tin (the cheapest), but I always get mixed (which is a little more).  This is his little throne he sits on in the yard.

He writes down my plate number, what I have in the trailer, and sends me off to the metal pile to unload.

If the guy that usually helps me unload is on lunch, the crane operator will come over with his big magnet-claw machine, plunk it in the back of my trailer, and lift it all out.  So while all the other Steel Town Pirates are hucking metal out of their vehicles, I stay put in my air-conditioned van while they unload mine for me.  Benefits of being a pretty young girl, I suppose.  I don't think they get many young girls there.

This is what a typical scrapper looks like.  Mark's old truck often looked similar to this.

We have learned that the money in scrapping comes from sorting the metal.  For instance, if we bring aluminum patio furniture, there are 3 different prices we get:  irony aluminum utensil is around .25 a pound, and that is aluminum with a lot of other material attached to it, such as a car bumper.  The next type is cast aluminum is about .65 a pound, which has some material attached, such as an aluminum patio chair (which has fabric and metal screws).  'Painted' aluminum is absolutely clean - no metal screws in it, just straight aluminum metal.  It is around .70 a pound.  So for some things, it is worth disassembling to get the higher prices.  Some things just aren't worth the time, such as stripping wire to pull out the copper, or cutting cords off appliances (unless they are stove or dryer cords).

In April, we scrapped 3-4 nights of the week, and made over $3,000.  It paid for most of the roof on the Balsam house we just did last weekend.  Usually a typical load is anywhere from $90 - $175, depending on the quality of the finds.  In Oakville, we can fill a load sometimes within a half-hour.  If it's closer to Hamilton, it can take almost 2 hours, just because there are so many other scrappers to compete with.

So next time you are out, and you see a scrapper pulled awkwardly off the road to load in an old air-conditioner unit, be patient and give him a wave - he's one smart guy making some extra cash for his family while saving the environment by recycling.  Here's to scrappers!

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