‘Steel’ This Idea: How to Recycle Scrap Metal

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Photo by Fotolia/Gresei
Keep little pieces of scrap metal, such as nails and screws, organized until your next recycling trip with this handy tip.

As a longtime recycler, I’m accustomed to saving food cans, bottles, paper and other materials. I also make sure to save large pieces of metal for the “scrappers” to pick up, or to take to the scrap yard myself. It’s the little spare items, however, that used to bother me — nuts and bolts, ball bearings, bent nails, and other odds and ends that I hated to put in the trash, but that I knew would fall through the holes in the bottom of my scrap box.

A few years ago, I took a couple of empty metal paint cans and placed one on my shop bench and one in my garage, both labeled “Small Scrap Metal.” These are convenient locations for me to drop stripped or rusted fasteners, small broken parts from bicycles or mowers, large staples from shipping cartons, and more. I also toss in small springs, parts of ballpoint pens, and metal filings and chips brushed from my drill press. I even add used steel wool! Any metal part too small to stand on its own can go into these metal scrap buckets.

It takes me about a year to fill one of these cans, but things add up! When full, I tap the metal cover back in place and seal it with a strip of duct tape to ensure that it doesn’t accidently get dumped. I then recycle the labeled cans with other metals and start a new scrap metal bucket.

In addition to feeling good about my environmental impact, these convenient cans help keep wayward nails, screws and filings from getting embedded in shoes, tires or the paws of pets.

Philip Jacobs
St. Paul, Minnesota