Depends on the local recylers/used-metal dealers as to whether there's
any real market or not--also what kind of wire makes a big difference.
If it's large diameter cable, it'll be fairly valuable while Romex may
be nearly worthless as is.
Not that the copper isn't valuable, just there may be no market locally
for it as it is a bulky material that is a pita to handle/process so the
collection and transportation costs can make it such that the local
scrap dealer may not want to mess w/ it...
In this area there are literally miles of old oilfield cable from 7/8"
to 1-1/2" w/ a major fraction being >1". This isn't worth hauling to
the recyclers unless it's cut to lengths of 30" or less so the drilling
companies don't bother as the labor/effort for them is more than the
return. There have been a couple of guys who built an automated cutter
system who were reclaiming it, but even w/ no charge for the material
they seem to have given up the enterprise...the problem is bulky
material is just not very valuable as recycle input unfortunately.
For an individual it may be a little spending money now and then if you
have the time/inclination to mess w/ it. Seems a waste, granted... :(
"I have miles of old copper wire. I have always thrown it away in the
past. What is the proper procedure for recycling it? Is recycling
worth it? "
LOL We have hoodlums out ripping copper wire off utility services and
stripping copper pipe from unoccupied buildings. Gee, do you think the
local scrap yard might pay for it?
The copper in the Romex and K&T should be pretty good with minimum NEMA,
ANSI or some such standards. Even better (in terms of copper purity) than
copper pipes as it needed to meet some minimum conductivity standard. 12 AWG
Romex and 250 MCM copper should be about the same quality which means it has
the same current density about 1,000A per sq. in. - i.e., same purity unless
if I'm mistaken.
The scrap yard I go to WILL take wire with insulation. The price may
be lower but they will take it. Many yards now have ways to remove
the insulation. Prices in early june for copper wire (no insulation)
were around 95 cents per pound.
They'll take it here but I meant "anything" in the sense of "anything
approaching enough to make it worth hauling in"....I'd be surprised if
the prices for small Romex/cloth insulated would be more than 1/4-th of
What is the proper procedure for removing the insulation? Can you burn
it off in a barrel in the back yard? Do you need to add other
ingredients to support combustion? Do you need to wash it clean before
turning it in?
I worked a lot of construction when I was young and tried to collect
the scrap off the job sites for recycling, but it was hard to come by
as most of the electricians kept it for themselves. Many of the
electricians I worked with used to burn the insulation off.
Burning it off is a bad idea. My Dad used to do that in our back yard
when I was a kid back in the 60s. Kinda frowned upon right now. You'll
have the FD down on you faster than you can say "EPA."
You can recycle the stuff as is or, if you really have "miles" of it,
you can invest in your own bulk wire stripping equipment, which all of
the scrap metal recyclers already own. The difference in scrap value
might be enough to justify the investment.
Here\'s some of my work:
Could probably send it through a chipper like machine and seperate the
copper from the insulation once it is all tiny chunks. THis is how they
recover precious metals from electronic assemblies. (gold from IC chips and
With the insulation on, the recycler will take it but not for much money if
About six month ago I got $1.10 a pound for copper pipe clean no solider on
ends.If they see one piece with solider they call it all dirty. Also check
some places were paying as low as $.60. They probably take to the place
paying $1.10. I have heard on some jobs when they installed the copper they
sprayed it black. they will cut it out of the walls. Last job I was on 3" k
grew legs and walked.
Call around. If you got "miles" of it, I am sure you can find a scrap
dealer that would buy it. They may even pick it up.
You will probably get more if you take it in to them, and shop around
because for that much, a nickel a pound can add up to a Franklin real fast.
Copper is a pretty good commodity.
I looked at it 2 ways:
A mile of 14-2 is only about $600.00 brand new from the store. If the
recycling center pays 10% of new value (*a made up number, not even a
guesstimate) and I have 3 miles of romex wire (counting 3 miles of knob
and tube as 1 mile or romex) I am only looking at $180.00
I estimate the weight of the copper at 225 lb (3 miles*3
conductors*4110 cmils/conductor @ 557 pound / (ft^3) for cu) -- or $250
@ 1.10/lb if I burned and washed it and much less if I didn't. This
seems like a lot of work and I have kept it around for a long time to
accumulate this much. If I had done these calculations a year back I
never would have held on to the wire. Maybe I miscalculated somewhere?
I will call up the recycling center in the next few days and see what
they pay. I might hold off on taking it in until I can burn it as it
sounds like this will significantly increase its value. The chopping /
wire stripping equipment would have to be VERY cheap to make it worth
Thank you all very much for your input,
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