One of the most commonly recycled metals is an alloy called brass — a combination of copper and zinc with many useful properties. You likely use brass on a daily basis, whether you recognize it or not. This article will help you learn to recognize common examples of brass and be a better, smarter recycler.
What does brass look like? Brass is typically yellow-gold in color, and the color of your brass can tell you about its copper and zinc content. More copper results in a redder shade, while more zinc leads to a more silverish tone. As a result, brass can range from reddish gold or bright gold to silvery-white color.
Like its parent metal copper, brass is highly malleable, which means it can be molded into different structures and shapes like sheets and wires. It is also resistant to corrosion. This versatility is why brass has so many different applications and can be found where you least expect it.
Common Examples of Brass You Can Scrap
Now you know what brass looks like, but where do you go looking for it?
DOORKNOBS AND HANDLES
Brass is highly sought after for its antibacterial properties, which it shares with its parent, copper. Bacteria do not live long on these metals, so they are often used for frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs and handles.
LOCKS AND KEYS
Brass is typically used to produce high-quality locks and keys. They can withstand high pressure and resist rust to keep the lock mechanisms working smoothly.
Hardware and Tools
Brass is used in several tools and hardware used in construction and related industries, or maybe even in your home workshop. You will find brass in nails, tacks, bits, measuring instruments (like weighing scales), and hand tools.
Brass’s malleability makes it a good choice for sculptures, and its resemblance to gold has made it very popular as a decorative accent. Brass is used in furniture, light fixtures, and household architectural elements. Some examples of decorative items that may include brass are bedframes, curtain rods, and garden decorations (like birdbaths).
Brass is the metal most frequently used to make rifle shell casings and cartridges because it has a low coefficient of friction and can withstand high pressure without rupturing. Ammunition is expensive, so many firearms hobbyists and shooting ranges recycle spent shell casings to get some money back.
Doing some home improvement projects or renovations on an older home? If you come across old light fixtures, sconces, or chandeliers that you do not intend to keep or are in rough shape, add those to the scrap pile. Brass light fixtures have sustained popularity throughout the years, becoming a staple of modern interior design today. Adding brass accents to light fixtures is the perfect way to change the texture of a room from bland to cozy and warm.
Gears & Parts
Its versatility makes brass a perfect raw material for the teeny tiny components in precision devices like watches, compasses, or barometers. You might even be wearing brass right now. Even cars as well as electronic and non electronic devices may have several brass parts that you might never see, such as connectors and brackets. If it’s got brass inside, it’s recyclable!
A majority of vehicle manufacturers prefer brass radiators over aluminum ones because they last longer, sustain lower air-side pressure drop, and cost less to manufacture. Brass radiators are among the most recycled car parts.
Its excellent resistance to corrosion and tolerance to extreme temperature changes makes brass ideal for plumbing fixtures. You can find brass in pipes, valves, channel drains, sinks, hose bibs, bidets, and faucets — most of which are constantly exposed to high moisture levels and temperature variations.
Brass instruments make up a musical instrument family of their own, including the French horn, tuba, trumpet, trombone, and euphonium. These instruments have impressive acoustic properties, and because of their corrosion resistance, a long life. There’s a strong secondhand market for used musical instruments, but when they’ve become unplayable, they’re still recyclable.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BRASS RECYCLING
Recycled brass is less costly to produce than new brass. In other words, recycled brass has a great value to manufacturers of metal products, and that value translates to good prices for high quality brass. Consequently, scrap metal collectors are always eager to find suitable materials.
The entirety of the brass industry relies on recycled brass products — working with recycled brass reduces production costs and helps conserve natural resources.
In addition to natural resource conservation, brass recycling has several environmental benefits, including less energy consumption and lower levels of greenhouse gas production, compared to traditional metal production.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF BRASS TO RECYCLE
Any brass-containing material can be recycled, but the value can vary based on the kind of brass it is. Understanding how these materials are categorized is essential. These are the basic types of brass scrap:
Red brass has over 80% copper, and you may find it in sprinkler heads, water pumps, plumbing tools, jewelry, meters, fittings, and some musical instruments (e.g., trombone). As the name implies, it is likely to be reddish or red-gold in color.
Yellow brass is the most common kind of brass. It gets its name from its golden color produced by the higher zinc content.
Yellow brass is most commonly used on doorknobs, locks, car parts, and plumbing materials. Brass radiator scraps are commonly recycled yellow brass. Separating brass from other metals can make it more valuable per pound.
Industrial brass mainly includes red brass, cartridge brass, 330 brass, naval brass, and high tensile brass, and it is commonly used in the construction, artillery, naval, and machinery component industries.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR ITEM IS SOLID BRASS OR JUST BRASS-PLATED
If you are wondering if that old bed frame or lawn ornament is made up of solid brass, the most straightforward test is to put a magnet to its surface. If the magnet sticks, the item is most likely made of iron or steel and only plated — or covered — with a layer of brass.
Typically, iron or steel items are plated with a thin layer of brass because the color and shine of brass are more attractive to look at. This is generally the case for inexpensive household items — they have a brass finish, which gives them an ornate effect for much less money.
A way to confirm the results of the magnet test is the scratch test. Select a small hidden area of the item you are testing for this test. Next, make a small scratch in this area with a sharp object. Now, examine the scratch: Is the layer underneath shiny and yellow? If yes, your item is most likely solid brass. However, if there appears to be a silvery layer underneath the scratch, your item has only been plated with brass.
DIFFERENTIATING BRASS FROM COPPER AND BRONZE
Copper is a very versatile metal and plays well with others, so there are more copper alloys out there than just brass. Brass’s cousin bronze is made up of mostly copper with some tin and other metals in smaller proportions. And of course, some items are made from copper itself.
The scrap price for brass usually moves together with the scrap price for copper. When copper prices are high, brass is worth more. Copper pricing changes very frequently, so if you are wondering what you will be paid for your copper, brass, and bronze scrap, it’s always a good idea to call your recycling center ahead of time and ask for their pricing.
Here are key factors that can be used to distinguish copper and bronze from brass.
- Color: Brass has a red color but with a golden tint, whereas copper has a reddish color and bronze has a brownish color with a reddish tint.
- Appearance with age: Brass ages with brownish streaking, while copper ages with greenish streaking and bronze ages with classic blue, green, and brown streaking.
- Hardness: Among the three, copper is the softest, followed by brass and then bronze. In other words, brass is sturdy enough to be used for some of the same applications as copper, while being cheaper than bronze to produce.
- Sound: When hit, both brass and bronze make a ringing sound, whereas copper makes a softer sound. The ringing sound made by bronze is generally louder than that made by brass.
Let Cohen Recycling Meet Your Brass Recycling Needs
Brass recycling is part of a more sustainable economy and manufacturing lifecycle. Brass has served mankind for generations due to its high malleability and strength and low costs to produce and recycle.