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Is All Metal Recyclable?

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It can be a bit confusing understanding all the recycling categories and what items can’t be recycled. Disposing of metal safely and responsibly requires some basic knowledge of what materials are not acceptable to recycle at a scrap metal facility.

Not all metal is recyclable. This is because of the type of metal an object is made of or the shape and texture of an item that makes it difficult to process in a recycling facility. Organizing your metal disposal with some guidelines in mind is an easy way to help maximize the value of what you bring in.  

What Items From Home Can I Recycle?

Many household items made of metal can be recycled. But there are some exceptions. Goods in the home can fall into a category that is unacceptable for recycling. Alberta Environmental Regulations require all recycling facilities to follow mandated guidelines set out by the province.

As a general rule, electronics are not appropriate to recycle as scrap metal. Fridges and freezers will require the freon to be removed prior to being recycled. Even if appliances contain some recyclable metal, the presence of chemicals, capacitors, and micro-switches makes them unfit to recycle at a scrap facility. If you aren’t sure whether a metal item you’re getting rid of can be recycled, contact a recycling facility for answers.

Things You CAN’T Recycle

The following is a list of common metal household items that are prohibited from being recycled at a scrap metal facility:

  • Paint cans, even if they are empty or have been rinsed. This includes cans used for storing sealers and stains.
  • Contaminated Cans that have contained pesticides or other toxic household materials.
  • Propane Tanks & Aerosol Cans, or any pressure sealed container, tank, or cylinder
  • Batteries dry cell batteries 
  • Electronics such as computers, TVs, tablets, phones, stereos, & video game consoles 
  • Refrigerators & Freezers with freon 
  • Microwaves, because they require complex disassembly of parts
  • Steel Cable, Chain Link Fence, & Barbed Wire can only be accepted if the entire material has been cut into small sections no longer than 8 inches

Here are some options aside from scrap metal recycling for disposing of some of the prohibited items on the list.

A pile of scrap steel pipes ready to be recycled

What Types of Metal Can I Recycle?

Non-ferrous metals are non-magnetic and very common as everyday items or as part of your home’s electrical and plumbing. Think of aluminum, brass, copper, and stainless steel; all these metals are non-ferrous and usually accepted for metal recycling. These metals are found in many things in and around your home and can be recycled if they are not a prohibited item.  

Structural steel, iron, and cast iron are all ferrous metals (magnetic) often safe to recycle as scrap metal unless they are part of a prohibited item. These metals are typically used in construction as beams or columns and can be recycled safely and cleanly. But some types of metals should not be recycled as general scrap metal.

Mercury CANNOT be Recycled

Mercury is a very toxic metal most commonly found in appliances or car parts (or an old-school thermometer). When disposed of improperly, mercury can have negative effects on the environment and damage entire ecosystems. Any component containing mercury must be removed before an item is recycled with general scrap metal. 

Contaminated Piping CANNOT be Recycled

Depending on its use, metal piping may not be accepted for scrap recycling. Pipe that has had sulphur running through it is not acceptable as general scrap. The same goes for radioactive pipe, commonly found in oil refineries in Alberta. And if you do happen to have a block of plutonium or any other radioactive material, it is definitely non-recyclable.

Industrial piping with non-metal coatings, such as Yellow Jacket or Black Jacket pipe is also prohibited from general metal recycling.

Speak to an Expert When in Doubt

You can help keep the environment clean of toxins by making sure that you are recycling metal responsibly and within your region’s waste regulations. Knowing what metals can be accepted by your local scrap metal mill is only going to make disposing of things easier for you. If there are metal items you are looking to ditch but not sure how to, call a metal recycling facility for answers and options.

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