Copper is one of the most common recyclable materials in the world. While there is a lot of copper in the world, there is also intense demand for it. If the metal is in good condition, it's likely worth recycling. Individuals looking to recycle should know how to identify what is recyclable and how to grade it.
The great enemy of recyclable copper is oxidation and resulting rust. Copper is prone to oxidation even under normal conditions, and you'll see plumbers clean pipes before sealing them for this specific reason. Generally, however, you can presume coated materials won't oxidize. If you're doing copper wire recycling, for example, you can preserve the recyclable material as long as you don't strip the coating too soon before selling it.
Copper dulls when it oxidizes, and it can turn dark brown or even green. If you've ever looked at a picture of the Statue of Liberty, that gives you an idea of what extreme oxidation of copper looks like.
If you're not sure whether it has oxidized, give it a light sanding with a polishing pad. Oxidized copper will be much duller than the polished section. However, unless there's extensive rust, the material is still fine for scrap copper wire recycling.
Ferrous materials can magnetize, and this makes them less desirable. If you're taking materials to a nonferrous copper recycling facility, you can check it with a magnet beforehand. It's suitable for nonferrous copper scrap recycling if it doesn't want to stick to the magnet. You may want to use a small but strong magnet like a neodymium fridge magnet for quick testing.
Oil and Petroleum Products
Copper is often exposed to petroleum products or oil through usage. Whenever possible, you'll want the copper to be as clean as possible for recycling. Otherwise, the recycler may grade it lower and pay less because they have to do the cleaning work.
Look for evidence of exposure. If there are black bits of material clinging to the copper, you can remove them.
Signs of Stress
Stressed metal is often less desirable for recycling. You won't see this very often with copper wire recycling unless somebody put the wire through tons of abuse. However, copper removed from roofs is often banged into sheets, imprinted with patterns, and clamped together with other sheets. It's still recyclable, but the purchaser will likely pay less for it. Unsurprisingly, you'll see a similar reaction to sheet copper for other purposes.
To learn more, contact a company like American Scrap Metal Services.