How to Identify and Sort Different Types of Scrap Metal

Scrap metal is a valuable resource that can be found all around us, from old cars to discarded appliances. Collecting and selling scrap metal can be a lucrative business, but the key is knowing how to identify and sort different types of scrap metal. In this article, we will provide you with some tips and tricks on how to tell the difference between various types of scrap metal so that you can sort them accordingly.

Step 1: Use a Magnet

One of the easiest ways to identify different types of scrap metal is to use a magnet. Ferrous metals, such as iron and steel, are magnetic, while non-ferrous metals, such as aluminum and copper, are not. So, if a magnet sticks to a piece of metal, it’s ferrous, and if it doesn’t stick, it’s non-ferrous. Using a magnet can also help you separate the different metals, as you can pull out all the ferrous metals with the magnet.

Step 2: Check for Color and Texture

Another way to identify different types of scrap metal is to look at their color and texture. Copper, for example, has a reddish-brown color and a shiny texture. Aluminum, on the other hand, is lightweight and has a dull gray color. Brass is yellow and has a smooth texture, while stainless steel is silver and has a shiny, reflective surface.

Step 3: Conduct a Spark Test

A spark test is another way to identify different types of scrap metal. To conduct a spark test, you’ll need a grinder or a file. Take the metal and quickly grind or file it against the grinder or file. The resulting sparks will tell you what type of metal you’re dealing with. For example, steel will produce a steady stream of bright white sparks, while copper will produce golden sparks. Aluminum will produce short, stubby sparks.

Step 4: Check the Weight and Density

Different types of scrap metal also have different weights and densities. For example, lead is a very dense metal and is much heavier than aluminum, which is very lightweight. Nickel, cobalt, and brass are also quite dense and heavy. Knowing the weight and density of each metal can help you sort them more effectively.

Step 5: Look for Markings and Labels

Some scrap metals might have markings or labels on them that can help you identify what they are. For example, if you find a piece of metal with the letters “AL” printed on it, you know it’s aluminum. Similarly, some copper wires might have “CU” printed on them. You can also look for recycling symbols, which might indicate what type of metal it is. Find extra information on the subject in this external resource we suggest., keep learning!


Sorting different types of scrap metal can be a challenge, but with a little bit of knowledge and practice, you can become an expert. By following the steps outlined in this article, you’ll be able to identify and sort different types of scrap metal to make the most of your recycling efforts. Remember, collecting and selling scrap metal can be a great way to earn some extra cash while helping the environment at the same time.

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