Whether it’s cleaning out an old barn, remodeling part of the house, or even just used electronics sitting in a drawer, many people don’t realize they can recycle most of their unwanted items. Selling scrap is a simpler process than you might think. Follow these steps as a first timer selling scrap materials at a recycling center:

1. Get your scrap together.

The easiest place to start looking for scrap material is around the house. Everyone has that corner or closet where junk tends to pile up, and this is the perfect opportunity to free up that space. Helping friends, family, and neighbors by taking their unwanted items at the same time can be another way to gather a larger volume of materials and earn more money.

For almost all scrap, you will get a payout in either cash or check based on the current market value of the materials you brought. Those market values change frequently and may vary slightly by location, so if you’re researching pricing, we always recommend calling your local Cohen Recycling Center ahead of time for the most current information.

2. It can pay to sort it first (but you don’t have to).

Getting the best payout on your scrap often means learning about different classes of metals (ferrous and non-ferrous) or which electronics have the most value (typically laptops and tablets).

The easiest trick for metals is to use a magnet! If the magnet doesn’t stick, the metal is non-ferrous, and non-ferrous metals are worth more per pound than their ferrous relatives. Electronics, which can include everything from blenders and hairdryers to computer towers and accessories, can contain both types of metals and are categorized separately.

Of course, we don’t ask or expect anyone to become an expert before they can start recycling. If you’re not sure what you have, just put similar things together and we’ll take care of the specifics.

3. Find a Cohen Recycling Center.

Cohen operates more than ten convenient drive-thru recycling centers (also known as retail recycling) throughout Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Most locations are open Monday through Saturday. Visit our location finder to learn which one is closest to you.

4. Tip the scales.

Once you’re at the yard, there’s an easy way to figure out where to go. Just ask, Trunk or truck?

If your scrap fits in your trunk: You can go directly to the drive-thru to have your scrap weighed on a smaller scale. This will apply to most customers.

If you have a truck’s worth: Drive onto the vehicle scale and wait until you’ve been given the signal to proceed. Your weight will be recorded prior to unloading your scrap, and then again after, when you’ll go across the scale empty. The difference in weight is used to calculate the value of what you brought in.

5. Get unloaded.

If you’re using the drive-thru, we will help you unload right there. If you came in over the scale or have large ferrous items like appliances, you will be directed to the proper area to unload that material, and help is available. Remember to get your empty weight on the scale again.

It’s good to know that though the general process is the same, every Cohen Recycling Center is set up a little differently. Use caution when navigating the scrap yard and anytime you are outside your vehicle, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Once you are unloaded and your material has been identified and weighed, you will be given a payment ticket describing your scrap. Keep this and your ID handy for the next step:

6. Make that money.

Exit the drive-thru or scale to park and head up to the office or the pay window. Before issuing your payment, the cashier will ask to look at your ticket and your ID, take your picture, and check to see if you are on the “Do Not Buy” list provided by the state. These measures are required to help local and state authorities prevent metal theft and fraud, a responsibility Cohen takes very seriously.

Speaking of serious responsibilities: Some items are more difficult than others to process for proper, safe recycling. For these items, most recyclers charge a fee, either per unit or by weight.

The most common items Cohen charges for are CRT (tube-style) televisions and monitors, refrigerators, and air conditioning units, all of which contain hazardous materials that require special handling. Some electronics, particularly those that contain more plastic than metal, may also incur a charge. Any charges will be deducted from the total value of your ticket. This may mean you owe a balance. Please note that Cohen can only accept cash.

Otherwise, that’s it! Once you’ve settled up, you’re good to go, until your next trip.

Words of Wisdom

We’ll be honest with you: To make a lot of cash, you’ve got to bring a LOT of scrap – more than the average customer will have. In that way, it’s not that different from other kinds of “recycling” like selling your used books or clothes. Even the highest value metals, like the gold in your computer, are usually found in such small quantities that their value is not what you might expect.

Our pricing is subject to market demands for various materials, and as such, changes frequently. Cohen’s hope is that our customers find the experience personally rewarding regardless of the payout, and we do everything we can to provide that experience.

Think of it this way: putting stuff out with the trash instead means you’re still paying someone to take it – and then not recycle it. Metals and electronics can take centuries to break down in landfills, and will leach harmful materials into the ground, water, and air in the meantime. Metal recycling also keeps the cost of new consumer goods down, because it’s less expensive to manufacture with recycled metal than with newly mined material.

So even if you’re not getting rich, you’re still doing the most responsible, least wasteful thing with your old stuff and contributing positively to the bigger matter of sustainability, and that’s worth something. Treat yourself to an ice cream cone. You deserve it.