June 1999

Scrap Terminology and Classifications

Copper Applications in General Interest


Scrap arises in many forms and from many sources. To facilitate sales, purchases, and pricing, dealers and merchants classify scrap in several ways:

  • by copper content or composition (No. 1 or No. 2 copper scrap, red or leaded yellow brass scrap, copper-based or nickel-based scrap),
  • by use (refinery scrap, smelter scrap, brass mill scrap),
  • by appearance (bare bright or burnt wire, mixed heavy or light scrap)
  • by source (turnings, borings, cartridge cases, old radiators, electronic scrap)

For purposes of analyzing scrap consumption, a broad but very useful classification is old scrap vs. new scrap. Old or post-consumer scrap is that which has been used by a consumer. New scrap is material that is generated during the manufacturing process. It includes both prompt-industrial and return scrap. For example, new scrap arises when molten copper is cast into shapes (cakes, billets, ingots, wirerod, etc.); it arises when shapes are converted into semi-fabricated products (strip and sheet, rod and bar, tube, wire, etc.); and it arises when these semis are used to manufacturer products for the electrical and electronic, building, transportation, industrial, and consumer markets.

Home or run-around scrap is usually generated and remelted in the same facility. For example, a fully integrated copper and copper alloy strip and sheet producer sends the scrap generated from milling and edge trimming operations back to the casting shop, where it is remelted and cast into cakes. The type of recycling is generally not recorded in the scrap statistics. However, for a mill that does not cast its own shapes, scrap arising from edge trimming, slitting, and off-spec production is sent to a primary mill for remelted and casting. Because this material is sold or toll processed, it generally is counted in the recycling statistics.

New scrap also includes prompt-industrial and return scrap. Prompt-industrial scrap arises in the form of the form of turnings, stampings, cuttings, etc., when semi-fabricated products are converted into parts. Examples include turnings generated when brass rod is machined to produce faucets and valves, and webbing that is left after leadframes or connectors are stamped from strip.

Usually this material is returned to the mill that supplied the semi-fabricated products, hence the term "return scrap". Most of this business is done on a toll basis. Essentially, the value of the return scrap is taken as a credit against a new order of rod or strip. However, if the parts are machined or stamped from imported material, the scrap may be sold to a mill or to a merchant. Return scrap makes up the bulk of the material in the new scrap category.

Scrap that arises rises further downstream and is out of the manufacturing loop, for example, when the plumber installs the tube or the electrician installs the wiring, is usually classified as old scrap, even though it has not been used by the consumer. This scrap is usually sold to a merchant or dealer, who, in turn, sells it to a mill or other processor.

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