Glossary of Common Materials Processed by Recycling Companies

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Todd Foreman
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Glossary of Common Materials Processed by Recycling Companies
(based on ISRI Specifications Guide)


Number 1 Copper – Wire or tubing.  No coverings, no paint, no solder, no joints, nothing inside.

Number 2 Copper – Used pipe or wire contaminated with paint, solder, joints, or coating.  May have small amounts of contaminating materials(s) inside.  Copper wire with insulation removed by burning.  Possible sources include remodelling or demolition projects.

Copper SheetSheet Copper – Rolled into sheets.  Uses include roofing, downspouts and gutters.  Note: New material that is still shiny may be considered Number 1 Copper.

Insulated WireInsulated Copper Wire – Wire covered with rubber, plastic or other non-conducting material.

Aluminium RadiatorsAluminium or Copper Radiators – (Aluminium/Copper Radiators) Can be found in vehicles and different types of machinery to include air conditioner units.  Free of brass, plastic or iron parts / brackets.

Historic PlaqueRed Brass – Electrical hardware, low pressure valves, pipe fittings.  Cemetery headstone plates and flower vases (sometimes referred to as bronze).  Free of lead or steel contamination.

Yellow BrassYellow Brass – Mixed brass.  Plumbing fixtures, valves, sprinkler heads, water meters.

Aluminium SheetAluminium Sheet – Uncoated, free of contaminants.  No paper, ink, plastic, etc. Uses include auto body parts, aircraft skins and packaging.

Extruded AluminumAluminium Extrusions – Examples include window frames, screen enclosures, bleachers, and ladders.

Aluminium WireClean Aluminium Wire – Wire free of plastic or rubber coatings.  No steel.


Tire RimsCast Aluminium – Products made by mold casting or sand castings, i.e. Tire rims and engine blocks.

Unclean WireUnclean Aluminium Wire – Often referred to as Insulated Aluminium Wire.  Has a plastic or rubber coating. 

Aluminium ExterAluminium Exterior – Sometimes called Aluminium Siding.  Aluminium siding scrap.  Can be painted.  No plastic or fiberglass.

Con AluminiumContaminated Aluminium – Often referred to as Dirty Aluminium.  Coated with plastic, rubber or other contaminates.  Examples include auto parts, pots and pans, and window frames with screws.

Stainless SteelStainless Steel – Steel containing nickel and chromium to prevent corrosion, rust or water stains.  Uses include construction, medical equipment, drilling equipment and water distribution systems.

Large AppliancesLarge Appliances – (White Goods) Scrap refrigerators, washers and dryers, range hoods, dishwashers, etc.

Steel Structural Steel Structural – Steel formed into specific shapes or beams, used in construction.

RailingMiscellaneous Steel – Non-structural steel that often remains visible after construction.  Railings, stairs, ornamental objects.

Sheet IronSheet Irons - Thin sheets of iron or steel sized by gauge, used primarily for car / equipment body panels and construction.

Car PartsMotor-Vehicles Non-body Parts – Engines, transmissions, catalytic converters, alternators, batteries, etc.

Catalytic ConvertersCatalytic Converters – Part of a vehicle’s exhaust system.  Reduces pollutants.  Contains precious metals such as platinum.

Tire WeightsLead – Clean soft scrap lead.  Free of other materials.  Typically found in sheet form but also in older wheel weights, fishing sinkers.

Electric MotorsElectric Motors – Whole electric motors or dismantled parts.  Either copper wound or aluminium wound.  May still have the steel casing with no attachments. 

Electronic ScrapElectronic Scrap – Cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc, recycled for scrap steel, aluminium, copper, lead, circuit boards, plastics and glass.

** To create a uniform mechanism for law enforcement to search for materials, all purchased materials entered into the scale system by a recycling yard would be coded with one of these codes.  The scale ticket reflects the item name as the yard deems fit, but on the backend of the system, the computer will sort all incoming purchased materials into one of these categories.

Glossary of Common Materials

Glossary of Common Materials Processed by Recycling Companies (based on ISRI Specifications Guide)


To combat the important issue of metals theft, ISRI has developed, an online theft alert system that is available to law enforcement, recyclers, and property owners - free of charge.

Learn how to use, a free-of-charge online theft alert system that is available to law enforcement, recyclers, and property owners.