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Portland: how to properly recycle small scrap metals curbside

**** We try really hard not to overwhelm you guys with nit-picky stuff. This post is kind of nit-picky. But we also know that we have some hard-core recyclers from Portland checking in here, so this one goes out to you guys! In the grand scheme of things, this is probably not a biggie. But it's information that I think should be shared. Do what you can. ****

In Portland and the metro area, we can recycle pretty much any kind of metal object curbside as long as it's smaller than 30 inches in any direction and weighs less than 30 pounds. This includes the small stuff, like bent nails and screws, bottle caps and any type of miscellaneous metal parts and pieces. In the past we could just chuck these little pieces into the cart along with all the other stuff. However, it's been discovered that a lot of this little stuff gets lost in the process by either slipping through the cracks or getting tangled up with other recyclables. This is discouraging to a hard-core recycler! However, there are things we can do to improve the odds that these small precious metals are getting recycled. I warn you, though, it takes some effort and can be a tad confusing.

Ideally, we should be putting small scrap metal items -- items that are smaller than the lid of a soup can -- into a metal can and then crimping closed the top of the can so that the items can't fall out. Like this can, which is full of bottlecaps (made of steel) from our favorite microbrews:


What I do is establish a 'collection can.' I save an empty metal can, remove the lid and let it fall into the bottom. Then I put the can in my garage recycling center, and over several days we'll fill it halfway with small metals. At that point I'll press the top of the can together with a pliers so that nothing falls out and chuck it in the rollcart.

If you just want to recycle an empty metal can, try not to completely remove the lid with the can opener. Leave a small portion attached to the can, fold it down inside the can and this should be enough to get it all recycled.

Now, here's where it gets even stickier. The Materials Recovery Facilities (where the recyclables are sorted) prefer that aluminum is NOT mixed with other metals. (UPDATED TO ADD: This only applies to putting small aluminum scrap into, say, a steel can. You still toss aluminum cans and whatnot into the blue roll carts along with all the other stuff. The MRFs just don't want aluminum caps mixed in with steel caps crimped into a steel can, or vice versa. Sorry for the confusion.) Sigh. So you need to know the difference. Beverage cans, like soda and beer, are aluminum. Small cat food cans and some tuna cans are aluminum. How can you tell? Magnets don't stick to aluminum, so if you are really uncertain and need to know, you can do that test. Aluminum can lids and other small items, like screw-top wine caps, should only be contained within an aluminum can or wrapped up in a piece of aluminum foil.

Ugh. I'm sorry. This has been the least fun post to write ever. Just do your best. Thank you. I'll try to answer any questions you have.


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