Stainless steel makes it possible to construct iconic skyscrapers, create aesthetically pleasing appliances and furnishings, and build safer vehicles. Its value to business and industry is obvious. Stainless steel scrap also has value. That’s why the price of stainless steel per pound, per ton is high which corresponds with the cost of stainless steel when new. Here’s what you need to know about the scrap price for stainless steel…

Included in This Article:

  • What is Stainless Steel?

  • The Different Types of Stainless Steel

  • Sources of Stainless Steel Scrap

  • Stainless Steel Scrap Price

  • Stainless Steel Recycling Process

  • Where to Find a Scrap Yard That Does Stainless Steel Recycling

  • And More…

What is Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is an alloy, or mixture of metals. It is an iron alloy with at least 10.5 percent chromium. Chromium is a blue tinged silver metal that hardens steel. It helps keep stainless steel true to its name, because it is very resistant to corrosion. Other types of stainless steel may contain:

  • Nickel
  • Molybdenum
  • Titanium
  • Copper
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen

These substances are generally added to steel to make it stronger or more malleable.

The term “stainless steel” was first suggested by Ernest Stuart, the manager of the cutlery department of a British store called Mosley’s. Many scientists worked towards creating stainless steel over a period of close to 100 years. However, Harry Brearley, a British scientist, gets the credit for creating the first stainless steel in 1913, which included 12.8 percent chromium and 0.24 percent carbon.

The Different Types of Stainless Steel

The most notable property of stainless steel is its resistance to corrosion. Different types of stainless each have properties that make it suited for use in different settings. Stainless steel is categorized by type and grade. There are over 150 grades of stainless steel. The most common type is Type 304, which is the classic stainless steel used in flatware and cooking pans. Other common types include:

  • 200 Series: Caustenitic iron-chromium-nickel-manganese alloys
  • 300 Series: Austenitic (metallic, non-magnetic) iron-chromium-nickel alloys
  • Type 301: Highly ductile; used for formed products; hardens rapidly
  • Type 303: A free machining version of 304 with added sulfur
  • Type 316: Added molybdenum prevents specific forms of corrosion
  • 400 Series: Ferritic and martensitic alloys with superior corrosion resistance

Type 304 steel was created in 1924, and is sometimes called 18/8 stainless steel because it contains 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel.

Common Uses of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is widely used in many different industries. In 2013, steel shipments by market classification included:

  • 10 percent to machinery and equipment manufacturing
  • 10 percent to energy products
  • 26 percent to automobile manufacturing
  • 40 percent to construction
  • 14 percent to other uses

Cars, houses, highways, and manufacturing plants use steel in various forms. However, over 50 percent of the stainless steel used is type 304 (or a modification of it). It is the “multipurpose” steel, used in food equipment, tubing, architectural trim, cutlery, cookware, plates, and more.

Identifying Stainless Steel Scrap

Why worry about so many different uses of steel? Knowing the types of steel and where it’s typically found can help you identify scrap to sell or recycle. Stainless steel is often confused with other metals, especially aluminum. However, there are a few methods of testing metal to determine if an item is or is not stainless steel.

  1. If a magnet sticks to the item, it is not aluminum, and may be steel.
  2. If your item passes the magnet test, try the spark test. To do this, grind a bit of the item on a grinding wheel; if it throws a “glow” of sparks, it is steel (a non-magnetic item that sparks is most likely 300-series stainless steel).
  3. Rule out aluminum pieces by checking for rust. Aluminum does not rust, but stainless steel may rust when exposed to extreme conditions over prolonged periods of time.
  4. Aluminum is typically at least three times lighter than stainless steel, so an item that feels light for its size is likely not stainless steel.

Other testing methods involve sulfuric and hydrochloric acids. However, these methods are probably best left to experienced scrappers who understand the safety concerns involved with hazardous materials. When all else fails, consider how the metal sounds. Iron alloys, including steel, have a distinctive bell-like ring whereas lead and aluminum produce only a dull sound when struck or dropped.

Where to Find Stainless Steel Scrap

Because it is the most commonly used type of stainless steel, 304 makes up the majority of scrap steel. Many of the following items are made using 304 stainless steel:

  • Kitchen equipment
  • Bathroom fixtures
  • Exhaust systems
  • Machine shop materials
  • Flatware
  • Sinks
  • Metal countertops
  • Manufacturing waste

If something looks promising, test it using a few of the strategies mentioned earlier, such as the magnet test or the spark test.

Stainless Steel Scrap Price per Pound, Ton

Prices for steel vary considerably over the course of years, months, and sometimes even days. In the summer of 2016, world stainless steel prices varied by type and process:

Hot Rolled Coil (304):
 $1,839/MT*, $.83/lb
Hot Rolled Coil (316): $2,963/MT, $1.34/lb
Hot Rolled Plate (304): $2,150/MT, $.97/lb
Hot Rolled Plate (316): $$3,029/MT, $1.37/lb
Cold Rolled Coil (304): $2,016/MT, $0.91/lb
Cold Rolled Coil (316): $2,883/MT, $1.31/lb
Drawn Bar (304): $2,266/MT, $1.03/lb
Drawn Bar (316): $3,179/MT, $1.44/lb
Cold Rolled Coil (430): $1,650, $0.75/lb

*Metric Ton

Around the same period, prices for scrap stainless steel in North America were lower. In the summer of 2016 in the United States, 304 stainless steel scrap solids sold for $0.41 per pound, with regional variations on this nationwide average. As with any commodity, prices vary according to location, local demand, worldwide prices, as well as a host of other factors.

Obtaining the best price for stainless scrap requires shopping around. While many scrapyards post prices online, these rates are often not up-to-the-minute accurate. The best way to obtain the most current dollar figures is with a telephone call. For comparison, check out this nationwide directory of scrapyards.

Stainless Steel Recycling

Steel has many great advantages over other types of metals, include its renewability. Each year, more steel is recycled than aluminum, copper, paper, glass, and plastic combined. Even after being recycled multiple times, steel retains its quality. The overall recycling rate of steel has reached 88 percent. Recycling by item type breaks down like this:

  • 5 percent of automobiles
  • 90 percent of appliances
  • 72 percent of steel containers
  • 98 percent of structural steel
  • 70 percent of construction reinforcement steel

The average stainless steel object is composed of about 60 percent recycled material!

When recycling stainless steel, it’s important to know what that steel actually contains. Nickel and chromium are common components of steel alloys. However, certain grades of steel may also contain rare elements:

  • Molybdenum
  • Titanium
  • Tungsten
  • Vanadium

Recycling makes it possible to recover these rare substances. This decreases additional mining, which, in turn, preserves natural resources and protects the environment from harmful mining practices.

Sorting different types of steel is a major part of the stainless steel recycling process. Many scrapyards have strict rules about separating steels according to grade and condition. Additionally, some stainless steel is not magnetic, so the magnetic belts often used to sort items do not work well for steel. Sophisticated methods are sometimes required to identify special alloys of steel.

However, once sorted by grade and type, the stainless steel recycling process is basically the same as that used for other metals:

  • Baling compacts stainless steel products into large blocks, which helps in handling and transport.
  • Hydraulic machinery is used to cut thick stainless steel into smaller, more manageable pieces.
  • Shredders with rotating magnetic drums begin separating ferrous metals (items containing iron) from other materials.
  • Electrical currents, high-pressure air flow, and liquid floating systems provide further separation.
  • The recovered materials (depending upon the required level of purity for future applications) are melted, poured, and shaped into ingots or slabs.
  • Slabs and ingots may later be rolled into flat sheets used to manufacture new products.

Recycling one metric ton of steel (about 2204 pounds) saves 1,100 kilograms of iron ore (2,425 pounds), 630 kilograms of coal (1,389 pounds), and 55 kilograms of limestone (121 pounds).

Stainless Steel Recycling Process

If a recycling center or scrapyard does not have the means for identifying different types of stainless steel, the scrapyard may only offer a generic non-ferrous metal price for steel scrap. Finding an operation that deals with a lot of stainless steel scrap may result in better payouts. Additionally, because of the rampant theft of many metals, scrapyards may require valid personal identification from all sellers before they accept scrap. Finally, call ahead to check on what types of stainless are accepted, as well as any minimum weight requirements. To find a scrapyard in your local area, try a search through this nationwide directory of scrapyards.

Final Thoughts About Stainless Steel Scrap Prices

Stainless steel recycling is an environmentally friendly way to convert unneeded appliances and more into cash. There’s a good chance that you own plenty of items that contain stainless steel, such as flatware, kitchen appliances, bathroom sinks, or other fixtures around your home. If you have any of these items that you’re not using, consider selling them as scrap at a local scrapyard. With prices ranging widely based on local demand, worldwide prices, and geographical location, there’s no simple answer as to how much your stainless steel scrap is worth — but if you have enough of it, it’s definitely worth discovering. The resources and information in this article can point you in the right direction to sell your stainless steel scrap for the best possible price.