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Recycling Insulated Copper Wire

No matter where you are in the country, scrap yards are always interested in buying copper. This is a valuable scrap metal because it is used in many different industries, from plumbing to electronics. Recycling insulated copper wire is easy, but estimating the value per pound is a little more difficult. Depending on the region you live in, the price you can expect to make when you sell copper wire can vary greatly.

Two Types of Insulated Copper Wire

While there are three main grades of copper that help drive up the price,

  • 14-6 gauge
  • 4 awg-750 mcm
  • low voltage wire,

14 gauge-750 mcm has only one layer of insulation. Low voltage has a double layer of insulation. While every scrap yard is a little different, these are good rules of thumb to go by when estimating the cost of your scrap.

Current Price of Insulated Copper Wire

As of September 2017, you can expect to sell copper wire for about $1.80 per pound. Once again, this number can vary greatly around the country, and will drop if the wire is double insulated.

Improving the Value of Your Wire

You may be surprised to learn, however, that there are a couple of things you can do to improve the value of any insulated copper wire you may come across. Whether you are recycling wire from appliances, cable from Internet or computer hardware, or collecting cast offs from a construction site, here’s what you need to know to get the most out of your hard work:

The first and best thing you can do is sort your wire by single-layer or double-layer insulation. Many scrap yards will only pay for an entire pile of wire based on the lowest grade present. So if you have a pile of single-layer wire, and one piece of double-layer wire exists, you will get the lowest price for the whole pile. Instead, separate your wire into two piles to increase the value of the better copper wire.

Some scrap yards will go ahead and grade the copper within the insulation for even better evaluation. In this case, it’s good to be aware of the various grades for copper:
  • Grade #1 is copper that is totally clean. It has to be at least 1/16 of an inch thick and may not have any other materials or impure areas. Insulated copper wire won’t fall into this category.
  • Grade #2 may include insulated copper wire if it is at least 96% copper, unalloyed, and free of any other sediment or impurities.
  • Grade #3 is also called light copper, and means anything less than 1/16 of an inch that is not as pure as grades #1 or #2.

While most insulated wire won’t be divided this way, it can still be helpful to know if you have a high quality wire on your hands when you head in to the recycling yard. Be sure to separate out your wire by this grade as well if you suspect it may make a difference!

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See also:

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