How to Identify Scrap Metal Types

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There are several types of scrap metal, and when you’re able to identify them, you can recycle them for money or to preserve environmental resources. Steel and aluminum are metals found in abundance. Other metals such as copper and brass, because they are more expensive, are not usually discarded as waste and are harder to find as scrap. All metals can be smelt and recycled into other goods and products.

Use a magnet to help you determine what type of metal you have. Metals that stick to a magnet are cast iron, tin and all types of steel. Metal recycling facilities and scrap yards use large magnets attached to cranes to sort the steel. Aluminum, silver, brass and copper will not be picked up by a magnet.

Identify different types of steel. Stainless steel is brighter than other types of steel, usually silver and shiny. Doorknobs, shelves, many sinks and cabinets and counters are made of stainless steel. Galvanized steel has a dull, lighter color, and it does not rust. Guardrails are made of galvanized steel.

Classify cast iron by its blackish color. It is another metal that sticks to a magnet. Cast iron was used for many years to make cooking pots and pans. It is lighter than steel but still very heavy.

Identify copper by its shiny, bright, reddish color. Copper is used for modern electric wiring in homes. When copper is exposed to the elements, it turns green.

Look for aluminum, which is silver, shiny and soft. Many soft drink cans are made of aluminum, as is the packaging of many other food and health care products.

Tin will stick to a magnet, whereas aluminum will not. It is light, flexible, thin, silver and slightly shiny. Tin looks similar to aluminum, but the finish on tin is slightly duller.


  • A recycled aluminum can saves enough energy to run a television for three hours.


  • Use care when collecting scrap metal at construction sites, as there may be sharp edges and points protruding from the scraps.