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How do I Recycle Copper?

Adam Hill
Adam Hill

Copper recycling is a fairly prevalent trend, because of factors such as environmental awareness, as well as the fact that many facilities which recycle copper will pay for the material. Recycling centers often pay almost as much for used copper as newly mined copper costs, depending on its condition, because it is so expensive to mine. The easiest way to recycle copper is to find a local facility in your area that accepts scrap copper, since even small pieces of it can be recycled.

The first step in being able to recycle copper is to collect and save scrap copper in any form. Copper can be obtained from old electrical wiring, copper pipe from home remodels, and even auctions and rummage sales. If you are buying copper to sell to a recycling facility, make sure that you are buying it at a low price which will enable you to sell it for more later on.

Copper wire.
Copper wire.

It is important to recognize that different types and grades of copper have different values. For example, copper of the highest grade is clean and shiny, as opposed to tarnished, soldered, or coated copper. One easy way to increase the grade of copper you want to recycle is to strip the insulation off any scrap wiring in your collection. The insulation decreases the value of the copper because of the effort that must be taken to strip the wire once it is at the facility.

Small nuggets of pure copper.
Small nuggets of pure copper.

Coated copper is the least valuable of any grade, and it is usually worth it to strip the wire yourself to increase its value. In some cases this may not be true, such as when working with coaxial cable or telephone cords, because the actual copper may be very difficult to get to and only present in small amounts. Before going to recycle copper at a local facility, it may be wise to check the market price of copper, if you want to earn money from it. If the price is comparatively low, you may or may not want to wait for it to go up.

A pot made out of copper.
A pot made out of copper.

Is is always possible to recycle copper, no matter what its age is. Almost all items containing copper will be accepted by recyclers, but some exceptions apply. Some large appliances, such as refrigerators and freezers, contain copper, but some recycling facilities do not accept these, due to their size and the effort it takes to extract the metal.

Discussion Comments


@wander – You’re absolutely right! We have had a huge surge in the break in of homes that are being renovated or built. The copper wiring and pipes are being stripped, even if they have to go through new sheetrock to reach it!

I know that there was an old high school friend of mine who was building a new home. It was broken into three times, and all of the wiring stripped and all of the copper pipes were cut out each time.

Others, who live just down the street from my parents, were renovating a burnt out home, and it was broken into and stripped so many times that they finally took a huge loss and sold the property to braver people!

It seems that most of the culprits here are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Copper scrap prices are good so selling it is an easy way to get some fast cash, and it is not really traceable.


If you have a lot of copper on your property, whether for building purposes, or part of machinery, you should be careful to make sure the area is secure.

As the price of copper goes up, more and more thieves are looking to make an easy buck by striping things like wiring from unattended buildings. They will even steel copper coils from air conditioning units.

Construction sites and foreclosed houses are easy targets for thieves, and because of the nature of what they are stealing they can also cause a lot of damage to the area when taking their loot.


If you have an older house it may be time to redo your plumbing. On the bright side of this, while this can be a huge undertaking you may be sitting on quite a bit of copper piping you can sell. If you choose to recycle your copper pipes remember that recycling companies rate the quality of your copper before paying you.

Some recycling companies may still consider copper pipes to be of high grade, even if they are discolored from age. Look around and make sure you can get a fair price for your pipes. It will make replacing all of you plumbing much more affordable.

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    • Copper wire.
      By: Dmitry DG
      Copper wire.
    • Small nuggets of pure copper.
      By: Ekaterina Fribus
      Small nuggets of pure copper.
    • A pot made out of copper.
      By: Pabkov
      A pot made out of copper.
    • Copper pipes.
      By: RZ
      Copper pipes.
    • A copper bracelet.
      By: Bookworm32
      A copper bracelet.
    • To recycle copper, it is important to find a local recycling center that accepts scrap copper.
      By: blas
      To recycle copper, it is important to find a local recycling center that accepts scrap copper.
    • Coaxial cable provides little usable copper for recycling.
      By: jeffrey van daele
      Coaxial cable provides little usable copper for recycling.