Do Scrap Yards Typically Take Plastic Scrap?

Where were you when you learned that the vast majority of plastics humanity creates ultimately end up in landfills? If you didn’t know this, you know it now. The reality of our collective failure to recycle plastic has led some people to wonder if scrap yards take plastic scrap. The simplest answer is yes and no.

Some scrap yards are happy to receive plastic scrap. However, they are very picky about what they will take. Other scrap yards will not touch plastic. It really depends on a yard’s policies and the types of plastic you are hoping to sell.

Tennessee-based Seraphim Plastics explains the fundamentals of scrap plastic to any customer that asks. The company buys plastic scrap in seven states including Ohio, Arkansas, Michigan, and Indiana. They say the key to success for recycling is segregation. Understanding what that means leads to a clearer understanding of scrap yard plastic policies.

Segregation Is Sorting

You may be among the millions of Americans required by local ordinance to recycle plastic, glass, and paper. You place all your recyclables into a curbside bin that gets put out with your trash weekly. All the recyclable materials that end up on the truck that day have to be taken to a sorting center for segregation.

Segregation is sorting, for all intents and purposes. It is necessary for the simple fact that not all plastics are the same. Moreover, certain types of plastic products are contaminated with paper labels, metal pieces, and other things. Said contamination has to be accounted for during the sorting process.

Seraphim Plastics does not recycle any residential scrap for this very reason. They have neither the time nor the resources to put into sorting. Even if they did, they couldn’t make any money at it. So all Seraphim deals in are clean, already segregated industrial plastics.

Plastics at the Scrap Yard

Scrap yards that accept plastic scrap are in much the same position as Seraphim. They do not have a lot of time to put into sorting. Therefore, they rarely accept mixed plastic scrap. They also aren’t too keen on accepting most types of residential plastics. Those that will take residential plastics will not pay a lot for them.

If you want to sell something like an electric motor, you could do one of two things. First, you could strip it of any and all plastic parts in order to receive premium price. Your other option is to sell the motor as is. The scrap yard will take it, but they will pay less for it to make up for the fact that an employee will have to take the time strip plastic parts.

On a similar note, copper wire is pretty valuable to scrap yards. They can get a lot of money for recycled copper. But if you bring a ton of copper wire still encased in plastic, you will not get top dollar for it. Why? Because the copper wire has to be separated from the plastic. Do that part yourself and you’ll get a lot more for the copper.

Reducing Plastic Scrap

The only way to make good money on recycled plastic is to reduce it to either pellets or flakes. Reduced material, known as regrind, can be sold to manufacturers of plastic goods. But in order to reduce scrap plastic, it has to be clean and sorted. Therein lies the problem.

Dealing with large loads of mixed plastics requires manual sorting. That is inefficient and costly. This is why scrap yards are either fussy about the plastics they accept or refuse to accept any at all.