How To Get the Best Scrap Lead Prices

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Scrapping lead can be a bit of a tricky experience. Not only is this metal toxic, but not every scrap yard will accept it because of the complexity of the recycling process. Car batteries have lead in them that can be scrapped, but that process is different than scrapping the actual metal. Before we understood how toxic this metal was, we used it for everything. Forget lead paint – we had lead plumbing, lead beer steins, and even lead roofing materials.

You might not be able to turn your lead into gold, but you can turn it into cash if you have a scrap yard that will accept this metal. This guide will help you find lead that you can scrap, let you know what the best prices for scrap lead are right now, and what to expect from the entire scrapping experience from start to finish.

How To Handle Scrap Lead Properly

Scrap lead must be handled differently than other metals. If you absorb too much lead, then you can negatively impact your health. Lead dust, vapors, and fumes can all produce negative health effects. It isn’t absorbed through the skin as a metal, but because it is so soft, small dust particles can flake off from the metal and raise lead levels within your blood.

Before handling lead to scrap it (unless you’re scrapping a car battery), you must wear protective clothing and respiratory protective equipment. Using protective gloves when handling lead directly. Always wash your hands and face before eating or drinking something after handling lead scrap, making sure to brush out your nails. Don’t smoke after handling lead either.

Dispose of all clothing and protective materials after handling lead scrap. Washing clothes contaminated with lead will not only spread the contamination to the machine, but also place lead into your local water cycle. Make sure you do not transport lead inside of your vehicle as well if you do take it to a scrap yard unless it is properly sealed and contained. Otherwise the lead contamination in your car could last for several years and place your health at risk every time you go for a drive.

What Are the Prices For Lead Scrap?

Lead scrap is separated into three separate categories. By knowing what type of category your lead falls into, it will become possible to get the best price for your scrap. The prices for lead in the USA are stable throughout the country, so you won’t find as much variation with this metal as you will with high value non-ferrous items like brass or copper.

Here are the average spot prices for lead that are currently offered in the United States right now.

  • General lead scrap by weight: $0.45 per pound.
  • Soft lead: $0.66 per pound.
  • Zinc die cast with lead: $0.40 per pound. 

It is very common to find lead and zinc together, so you’ll need to make sure your lead scrap is pure before turning it into the scrap yard. Lead and zinc combined is never as profitable as scrap as either lead or zinc on its own. There may also be other lead alloy items that are found as scrap, but there is no standard of pricing in the United States for anything besides lead and zinc together. You may need to ask your scrap yard for a specific quote based on the metals you suspect that you have.

Note: The problem with lead scrap prices is that the recycling process for this metal is complicated, complex, and expensive. Although these are the spot prices for this scrap metal, almost every scrap yard in the US will offer you a much lower rate. It is not uncommon to experience a 70% scrap yard premium on this particular metal. This means instead of receiving $0.66 per pound for your soft lead, a fair price would generally be around $0.20 per pound. For general lead scrap, a price around $0.15 per pound would often be considered fair.

You may find better rates at retailers who offer to recycle lead scrap, although these retailers don’t generally offer cash. You may instead receive an in-store credit for future products or a discount on a future purchase. Depending on the value seen in your local market for lead scrap, this might be a more profitable outcome.

Where To Find Lead That Can Be Scrapped

Lead acid batteries are the most common form of this metal that gets scrapped today. These batteries are most often found in cars and other vehicles, but some children’s toys, electric bikes and scooters, and other machinery may also have them. Lithium-ion batteries are not the same as a lead-acid battery.

Going beyond the battery, another common place to find lead that can be scrapped is at your local medical provider. Lead blocks radiation that is used for x-rays and other imaging procedures. When you put on that heavy apron, what you’re actually wearing is lead. They are not normally just thrown in the trash, so you may need to form a relationship with your healthcare facility to be able to recycle the aprons when needed.

Scrap lead can also be found in certain containers that are used to block radiation. Old forms of lead solder can also be scrapped, but at a better value because it contains antimony or tin that have a better scrap value. You may wish to resell your lead solder instead because it could have more value.

Various weights and ballasts also contain lead. They’re not as readily available because of the hazards of this metal, but fishing weights, sinkers, and wheel weights may have scrap value. Bullets and shot, pewter, stained glass, and roofing materials from before 1941 all have scrap lead in them as well that could bring in some extra cash.

How To Get the Best Prices For Lead Scrap

Selling scrap lead to a scrap yard should actually be the option of last resort for this metal. You’ll find numerous merchants will want to recycle any scrap lead that you have because they can use it for their own products. Many people today cast bullets and fishing weights legally from lead and will give you a price that’s closer to the spot price of scrap lead than a yard will.

Check local and national forums, free classified listings, and other places where advertising may take place for the scrap lead that you have. You might even be able to sell the scrap lead directly to someone through various retail websites.

Older lead is also better lead when it comes to scrap value today. This is because lead that was smelted before World War II is considered to be low alpha lead. The market today generally wants to have lead that was created before 1800, but there may be specialty dealers who will take later versions. The price of this lead, if it can be supplied in a large enough quantity, may be up to 200x the current spot price of lead scrap.

How To Avoid the Traps of Scrap Lead

The problem with scrap lead is clearly its toxicity. The scrap yard is taking on the risk to recycle it, which means you’re going to pay a premium for the privilege of turning it in. Just like scrap batteries are offered at a flat rate that may be between $5-$15 depending on local market conditions, you may be offered a flat rate for your lead as well.

There are also different legal definitions for what is considered to be lead in your state. This because there are both federal and state standards in place that define how much total lead content can be in metals and other items that are used. If you have an item that contains more lead than is considered acceptable in your state, the scrap metal may need to be destroyed instead of being recycled. In this instance, you would get nothing.

Certain lead items also have more collectible value than scrap value. Consider lead scrap from bullets that originated from before 1850. The value of the actual bullet would come from where it was found, why it may have been fired, and who may have actually fired the bullet if this information is known. Always look at the collectible value of the lead scrap you may have before considering what the scrap value may be.

Lead acid batteries are always going to be the most common form of this scrap metal that is recycled by the average person today. You can still sometimes find lead pipes, flashing, and other materials in 18th-early 20th century homes, so knowing how to test for lead products in your home and contamination in the soil around the property can let you know if you may have scrap value. Follow this guide to get the best scrap lead prices possible and make sure you stay safe while handling it for the best possible experience.

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