Microwaves are a common household appliance found in most homes. However, when they stop working or you buy a new one, you may wonder what to do with the old microwave.
One option is scrapping it for cash. Microwaves contain metals like steel, copper, and aluminum that can be recycled and repurposed. This makes them worth money as scrap metal.
What Metals Are Inside a Microwave?
The main metal components in a microwave include:
- Steel: The outer body, interior walls, turntable, and frame are often made of steel. This is one of the most abundant metals in a microwave.
- Copper: Copper wiring is used for the internal components and to connect the electrical system. Copper tubing may also be used for the magnetron.
- Aluminum: The magnetron contains aluminum. Aluminum is also sometimes used for the outer case instead of steel.
- Other metals: Small amounts of other metals like tin may be found in solder, wiring, and electronics.
The exact weight and types of metals will vary by the microwave model and manufacture date. Newer microwaves tend to contain less metal than older, bulkier models. The magnetron and wiring harness usually make up the majority of scrap metal value.
How Are Microwaves Recycled for Scrap?
Microwaves need to be properly dismantled and processed before the metals can be recycled. Here are the basic steps:
- Remove plastic components: The glass tray, turntable, buttons, casing and other non-metal pieces are removed. These are often not recyclable.
- Take out electric components: Copper wiring, electric motors, capacitors and the transformer are taken out. These contain valuable copper.
- Extract the magnetron: The magnetron is unscrewed and removed from the microwave. It contains copper, aluminum and small amounts of beryllium.
- Remove steel case: The outer and inner steel casing is unscrewed and removed. This steel is fairly thin but makes up the bulk of a microwave’s weight.
- Weigh metals: The different metals are sorted, weighed and graded for recycling facilities.
- Sell to a scrap yard: Facilities that specialize in e-waste or scrap metal will purchase the separated aluminum, copper steel etc. Prices are paid out per pound based on current scrap market rates.
What Is the Scrap Value of a Microwave?
The scrap metal value of a microwave varies based on:
- Weight: Heavier microwaves with more steel and copper contain more metal value. Older models from the 80s and 90s are heavier.
- Metal prices: Scrap prices fluctuate so values rise and fall with copper, steel, and aluminum prices.
- Microwave condition: Newer or broken units with missing components provide less usable metal.
- Scrap yard pricing: Facilities pay different rates per pound for each metal type.
On average, scrapping a microwave can fetch anywhere from $3 to $10. Very large, vintage microwaves from the 1970s to 1990s sometimes yield up to $20 in scrap. The range depends on microwave weight and metal market prices.
Keep in mind transportation costs of taking the microwave to a scrap facility. If the gas and time costs more than the value, it may not be worth scrapping.
Typical Scrap Rates for Microwave Metals
Here are the average scrap prices paid per pound for common microwave metals:
- Steel: Around 5 to 10 cents per pound
- Copper: $3 to $4 per pound
- Aluminum: 30 to 60 cents per pound
- Brass: $1.50 to $2 per pound
So a microwave with 10 lbs of steel, 3 lbs of copper, 1 lb of aluminum and half a pound of brass could get around $15 to $20 at a scrap yard. Again, prices fluctuate weekly so call around for current rates in your area.
Where to Scrap a Microwave
You have a few options for scrapping a microwave:
- Scrap metal yards: Look for local scrap metal recycling centers that accept electronics and appliances. Many will let you drive up and drop off.
- E-waste facilities: Many e-waste recyclers like ecoATM also buy scrap metals. Rates may be lower than scrap yards.
- Online metal buyers: Sites like thescrapmetalguys.com and scrappie.com let you get quotes and mail in metals.
- Sell for parts online: Microwaves with working magnetrons can sell for $5 to $30 on eBay or Craigslist for people repairing microwaves.
Before scrapping, call the facility to ask about their rates, hours, and policies like any item restrictions or minimum amounts. Some places may not accept items that contain hazardous components like the magnetron. Then dismantle the microwave and transport the metal pieces for recycling cash.
Is It Worth Scrapping a Microwave?
Scrapping an old microwave is usually worth it since all the metal can be recycled. Microwaves otherwise take up space in landfills. Even $5 or $10 for an hour of work can add up if you’re scrapping multiple appliances.
However, if the microwave is still functional, consider donating or selling it first on Craigslist or Facebook. Some habitats for humanity and thrift stores accept appliance donations.
Only scrap if the unit is broken beyond repair. Make sure to remove and recycle any glass trays, shelves or reusable components beforehand. And always scrap responsibly by removing plastics, following facility policies, and not dumping metal.
With some time and effort, those unused microwaves around your home can be turned into a bit of extra pocket change through scrap metal recycling. Make sure to call ahead for current rates and take metal pieces to a reputable scrap yard or recycling center for cash.
Handling e-waste properly keeps metal circulating through the recycling ecosystem while keeping toxic components out of landfills.
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