The question this week is about rusted metal.

Rust is iron oxide. It occurs when iron is exposed to the elements and reacts with water or moisture. Because it requires iron, rust will only occur on metals made from iron. Things like nickel, chrome, or aluminum are often used exactly because they won’t rust, even left outdoors in the weather.

So, when the old gas grill, kitchen appliance, yard tool, or whatever, has rusted away, can we simply recycle it? In most cases, we cannot drop in it our recycle bins at the curb, either because it’s just too large or bulky for the recyclers to handle (which we’ve addressed other times in these columns), it’s the wrong type of steel alloy, or it contains a mix of steel and other things like wood or plastic. It often still can be recycled, but only if we handled it properly.

In Brunswick, so-called “white metal” objects like kitchen appliances, or other household steel not suitable for the recycle bins, can be taken to the Graham Road Processing Facility, and left in a specific location there. In accordance with the town website, there is a $10/item fee for white goods, in addition to the $5/year window sticker required of residents to prove citizenship before entering the facility. That is still less than paying someone else to take it away.

Other scrap metal, whether ferrous or non-ferrous, can also be left at Graham Road Processing Facility. There is no fee (beyond the sticker) for those items.

Most scrap yards will pay for steel, but it is usually mixed with other metals, and is not especially valuable. A piece that is highly rusted will also certainly weigh a bit less. Grimmel Industries in Topsham (Pejepscot) and Lewiston is a place I have taken scrap metal successfully. At their Lewiston location, they will even pay separately for brass, copper, and aluminum, which have higher values than, say, steel shelving, old stoves, or that rusty grill. It’s also important to note that these companies sell their product on international markets, so they measure it by metric ton, and they also buy that way. A metric ton is approximately 2,204 pounds, not the usual 2,000 pounds we normally use. Your invoice will show, say one ton, and a rate of maybe $20/ton, but you’ll receive only about .9 times that much. In this case, about $18.00 because it’s only .9 metric tons.

As an aside, one reason steel is less valuable as scrap is that the rust needs to be removed, along with things like ink or paint, during the recycling process. If that is not done, the rust simply reforms when the melted steel is cooled. That purification process involves adding things like carbon to bond with the oxygen in the rust, and that takes time and money.

The Recycle Bin is a weekly column on what to recycle, what not to recycle, and why, in Brunswick. The public is encouraged to submit questions by email to [email protected]. Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: