How much is lead per pound, ounce, ton, etc.? Where can you find sources of scrap lead? Where can you sell scrap lead once you have it? Lead scrap prices can vary widely based on a number of contributing factors, so it’s important to know the value of your lead before taking it into recycling. In this article, you’ll find all of the information you need to know about scrap lead prices, so that you can make the most money from your lead scrap.

What This Article Covers:

  • What Objects Are Made from Lead?

  • What’s the Lead Scrap Price?

  • Safety Issues with Lead

  • The Value of Lead Compared to Other Metals

  • Where to Sell Lead

  • And More…

What Objects Are Made from Lead?

Lead has a long history of usefulness. This soft, blue-white metal is mentioned in the Old Testament. The ancient Egyptians used it to make figurines. In Ancient Rome, lead was added to wine to increase sweetness. Romans also used lead extensively in their plumbing, cooking pots, baths, and more. Queen Elizabeth I’s white face was due to the use of lead-based cosmetics.

There are good reasons that lead was used so widely throughout history. Among the biggest advantages of the material is that lead is highly malleable or pliable, and it’s also highly resistant to corrosion. Today, lead remains an important metal in many industries and applications. However, it is now valued more for its chemical properties, which make it well suited for use in industrial products such as:

  • Radiation protection
  • Underwater power and communication cables
  • Vehicle batteries
  • Electric vehicle batteries
  • Batteries operating emergency power supplies

Of these items, batteries are likely the greatest source of scrap lead.

Finding and Identifying Lead

Anywhere you go, indoors or outdoors, lead is likely present. However, it rarely appears on its own in nature. Most lead is extracted from ores; specifically, it’s most often extracted from galena, which is widely available in many parts of the world. In fact, there are close to 250 mines in more than 40 countries that produce lead.

However, much of the lead used today is not newly mined material. Because of its widespread use, there is a great deal of lead available for recycling. Lead has a high recycling recovery rate, is easily identifiable, and can be repeatedly purified through remelting.

Common non-industrial items made from lead include:

  • Scuba weights
  • Fishing sinkers
  • Pipes (including church organ pipes!)

How Much Is Lead Worth?

How much does lead cost when new? In late 2016, the price of lead on the London Metal Exchange was $2,055 per metric ton, $0.93 per pound and $0.06 per ounce. For scrap lead, the price varies according to demand as well as geographical location. As of fall 2016, scrap prices per pound for various types of lead depended heavily on location.

Scrap lead prices for Fall 2016:

  • Kansas:
  • West Coast:
    • Clean Lead, soft or hard: $0.71
    • Wheel Weights: $0.39
    • Batteries: N/A
  • East Coast:
    • Clean Lead, soft or hard: $0.71
    • Wheel Weights: $0.38
    • Batteries: N/A
  • New Jersey:
    • Clean Lead, soft or hard: $0.45
    • Wheel Weights: $0.15
    • Batteries: $0.17 – $0.24
  • Massachusetts:
    • Clean Lead, soft or hard:  $0.41
    • Wheel Weights: $0.20
    • Batteries: $0.16
  • Maryland:
    • Clean Lead, soft or hard:  N/A
    • Wheel Weights:  N/A
    • Batteries: $0.10 – $0.16
  • Minnesota: 
    • Clean Lead, soft or hard:  $0.35
    • Wheel Weights: $0.20
    • Batteries: $0.22

In terms of price records for lead, the all-time high price for a metric ton was $3,989 in October 2007. The lowest price on record was $357 in October of 1993. Compared to other commonly traded metals, lead is inexpensive. It is also heavy, weighing in at almost 708 pounds per cubic foot. Copper weighs about 560 pounds per cubic foot, aluminum about 168 pounds, and iron about 491 pounds.

While it is not the least expensive metal on the market, lead demands a lower price than many other metals. Gold, platinum, and rhodium are at the top of the list. Average prices for commonly used industrial metals were, as of mid-2016:

  • Clean Lead: $0.28 per pound
  • Bare Bright Copper Wire: $1.60 per pound
  • Yellow Brass: $1.10 per pound
  • Contaminated Copper Radiators: $0.90 per pound
  • Aluminum Extrusion: $0.41 per pound
  • Aluminum (MLC — mixed low copper): $0.33 per pound
  • 304 Stainless Steel: $0.23 per pound

Additional Resources for Finding Lead Value

As with most commodities, lead prices fluctuate. These prices can vary from one day to the next and will not be consistent throughout the country. The price for lead on a metals market differs substantially from the price paid for scrap lead pieces. With all this in mind, there are several sites that provide up-to-date lead price information on different exchanges.

  • InvestMine provides pricing data as well as charts comparing lead’s price to that of other metals.
  • The LME provides pricing information as well as historical data.
  • Trading Economics provides historic high and low price figures as well as current prices.

For scrap lead, use the internet to compare prices at several metal dealers in your local area. It’s a good idea to call these dealers to check for their latest prices, in case the websites don’t have the most current information. In general, expect to get better prices for larger lots of metals than on smaller individual pieces. Many of these scrap dealers will have restrictions on the condition of scrap they purchase, so you’ll often need to get in touch with a dealer directly to know whether they accept the type of scrap you have to sell. You can find a nationwide directory of scrapyards here. 

Safety Information: Important Precautions for Working With Lead

Lead is an incredibly useful substance, but it also poses potentially serious health implications when handled improperly. Consider some of the common sources of lead exposure:

  • Fossil fuels
  • Industrial facilities
  • Lead-based paint
  • Ceramics
  • Plumbing materials
  • Batteries
  • Ammunition

Unfortunately, many people are unaware that items they handle may contain lead. The good news is that about three-quarters of refined lead is made from recycled lead. That means less lead is going into landfills and potentially contaminating the surrounding land and water. Because so much of this harmful material is being recycled, it’s extremely important that people understand how to take the proper precautions when handling items that contain high levels of lead.

An important part of the recycling process involves separating components of different items. Using a cutting torch creates temperatures high enough to melt leaded solder and vaporize surface lead, which can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. HEPA air filtration systems can help reduce exposure to lead, as can removing coatings along cutting lines before cutting. Additionally, using an extended cutting torch means that the object is kept further away from the operator than the use of a standard torch.

There are some special considerations for breaking down batteries for recycling. Inside batteries, there are not only lead plates, but also acids contaminated with lead. The lead may be in the form of very small particles, which are easily inhaled. The use of exhaust hoods, as well as personal protective equipment (respirators, gloves, protective coveralls), help reduce lead exposure during recycling.

Lead residue on tools and work surfaces also presents a potential hazard. Lead dust collects on just about any surface. Never dry sweep potentially contaminated areas. Instead, use a HEPA vacuum followed by washing surfaces with water and detergent. Finish up by using the vacuum on the surfaces one more time.

As with any potentially dangerous process, we strongly recommend that you do your research thoroughly, have all the proper tools, and understand the risks. If done improperly, working with items containing lead can be a serious hazard to your health — so if you have any concerns or questions, please get in touch a professional who can assist you.

Recycling Lead

Lead is a remarkable substance. When recycled, its quality is nearly identical to “primary lead” obtained directly from mining. Lead is used in a wide variety of different applications, such as batteries. It’s easily recoverable, and the rate of lead recycling in North America is close to 100 percent. Additionally, lead batteries have the highest rate of consumer product recycling among common recyclables.

The lead recycling process involves several steps:

  • Lead products are returned to metal dealers, recycling businesses, etc.
  • Specialized businesses collect scrap lead and transport them to a smelter.
  • At the smelter, lead scrap is separated from other substances, smelted, and refined.
  • The resulting refined, recycled lead is used to create new products.

Recycling just about any substance is great for the environment, and this is especially true of recycling lead. Recycling lead:

  • Reduces the amount of lead released into the environment.
  • Conserves natural resources.
  • Reduces the need for additional mining.
  • Reduces health and environmental damage.

Recycling lead requires some knowledge about safe handling as well as recognizing lead sources beyond batteries. However, done correctly, it may generate some notable income.

How Much Is Lead per Pound, Ounce, Ton? Final Thoughts

Lead may not be worth as much as platinum, gold, or brass, but it is readily found in an array of common household and industrial products. If you have lead in your possession (and most of us do), there are a number of options for making money from it, including scrapyards, recycling businesses, and metal dealers.