Where Have Copper & Steel Prices Come From? – 3/31/21


Podcast coming soon…


With our upcoming podcast being released this week, we are looking forward to sharing more scrap stories with you and interviews with professionals from all across the industry. What is it that YOU want to learn more about so we can help publish more scrap talk? 


Let’s get away from some of the micro problems that we have talked about week over week: the Suez Canal blockage, different stimulus packages, and anything else that has to do with scrap specific week-to-week events. We want to talk about bigger problems that we see taking place in the world, problems that are going to affect scrap over the rest of 2021 and beyond. So whether it is about vaccines or stimulus, we are going to try to wrap up a 2021 preview and hope to give you a little more clarity. 

Quick Numbers

  • 1.6B MWh – Hours of energy produced by natural gas-fired plants in 2020. 
  • 790M MWh – Hours of Nuclear power plants energy created. 
  • 774M MWh –  Hours created from coal plants. This used to be the largest energy creator by multiple times until coal plants started shutting down due to pollution concerns. 

*All data from EIA’s Electric Power Monthly

Weekly Facebook Group Highlight

Last week, we polled our Facebook group users asking how long they typically hoard materials. The majority of pollers (60%) answered they hoard for no particular amount of time, just when it feels right. Surprisingly enough, only voters ???? wait until prices hit a high.  One of our group members made a good point in the comments stating, “Hoarding costs money in my opinion. Space is value so if it is on my trailer, the clock is ticking on it. The longer it sits, the less I made because now there is less room for more.” Great point, Michael Brown ???? If you want to have your vote counted in these weekly polls, request to join the Scrap Metal Recycling Talk group today!

We love sharing the cool finds our group members have ???? Shown below, group member Raymond showed off this awesome pocket watch he found. A quick search on our end and turns out this beauty was made by American Waltham Watch Co., a company that was formed in Roxbury, MA and manufactured watches from 1850-1957 ⏱ So our question for you scrappers is: would you sell or scrap this antique? 


Non-Ferrous Market News

Copper & Where It’s Been ????

Copper from 1980 through 2005…Copper has become one of (if not) the hottest commodity going into 2021, with the markets drastically going up during the last 6 months of 2020 and into 2021. For many years during the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, copper was one of the most underappreciated metals. This caused prices to be lower than they should have been and it was not until the Chinese renaissance in the 2003-2005 timeframe that copper really amped up to what it is now.

From the resurgence of copper in 2005 through today’s markets, we have seen large changes that have shifted focus from need vs. want to more of a trader-based theory of metals. Traders were always looking for more things to trade and make money off of, even when they would never see, touch, or sometimes know what copper looks like. When the traders started to see the large Chinese demand for copper, they took copper under their wing as another trading element and moved away from the traditional gold and silver trading routes. 

Now that copper is at the forefront of many people’s minds, we can see that the trading levels are picking up not only as more people get into the markets, but also as other countries begin expansions, such as India. On top of these things, we see/hear China growing its economy even more, which will lead to increased copper demands… which we will begin to talk about next week.

Today’s Market ????

Copper had very little movement week-over-week with prices not changing much at all. The prices that we are seeing reported at yards have remained consistent (other than a quick $0.10 decline last Thursday that was negated by a $0.09 uptick on Friday).

Reported Non-Ferrous Scrap Prices (03/24 – 03/30):




Starke, FL Aluminum Extrusion $0.40 / lb
Rockaway, NJ #1 Bare Bright Copper Wire $3.50 / lb
Cheyenne, WY Lead $0.35 / lb
Coatesville, PA Electric Motors (Copper) $0.25 / lb
Tumwater, WA Red Brass $2.10 / lb
Hartford, KY Old Sheet Aluminum $0.35 / lb
Athens, GA #2 Copper Tubing  $3.13/ lb
Bedford, IN Aluminum Cans  $0.48 / lb
Westport. MA THHN Wire $1.25/ lb 
Gulfport, MS Cast Aluminum  $0.37 / lb
Lawton, OK Ballasts $0.09 / lb
British Columbia, CA* Brass $2.60 /lb

Ferrous Market News

Because of the extremely low price for many years, steel was always a problem for many scrap yards. Stories of scrap steel being worth $0.005 (half of a penny) per pound for years on end were always an issue for scrappers. People moved and sold steel because it was still cheaper than throwing it away and sometimes, you were able to walk about with a few dollars. But, as time progressed, we started to see the markets shifting to following oil and gas prices and steel became predictable up until the mid- 2000s (noticing a trend here?). 

When the Chinese began their massive investment in their own infrastructure, as well as expanding their global footprint with ports, ships, expanded military, and more, we saw steel and iron ore prices increasing. At the same time, we started to see an inflationary period where the commodities industry and cycles began to take their own shape instead of going after more of the traditional oil prices vs. steel market prices. In 2007-2008, we really saw steel prices go crazy with light iron going over $400…but we will get to that more next week. 

Today’s Market ????

Steel has shown large declines in March, a drop of $30+ per ton. While unfortunate, we are still about even for 2021 and the markets will show more signs of improvement as different infrastructure bills take shape and as the country/world pulls out of this pandemic period. April looks to have stable markets- and right now is showing little movement from today’s market prices. 

Reported Ferrous Scrap Prices (03/24 – 03/30):




Gosport, IN Automobiles $170 /ton
Watertown, SD Shreddable Steel $120 /ton
South Windsor, CT #1 Prepared $250 /ton
Albuquerque, NM #1 HMS $185 /ton
Birmingham, AL Shred/Tin $7.50 /CWT
Shreveport, LA #1 Unprepared $9.25 /CWT
Anderson, SC #2 Prepared  $7.50 /CWT
Augusta, GA Cast Iron $5.50 / CWT
Lafayette, IN Light Iron $185 /ton
Chattanooga, TN Short Iron/#2 HMS Prepared $10.00 /CWT
Jacksonville, FL #2 Unprepared $8.50/CWT

Other Metal Markets

Aluminum used to be one of the metals that were always needed, but always was a bit of a pain at scrap yards. Customers did not (still most don’t) know the grades of aluminum.  There have been more negative scrap stories about aluminum arguments than positive comments and things happening. Aluminum grades and sorting have changed over the years, with market pricing and overall demand increasing at the same time. This has been spurred by increased technology and being able to adjust and alter aluminum uses, showing a massive benefit to the overall industry.

Today’s Market ????

Aluminum has been the darling of the metals world (other than the cat world) in 2021, with markets increasing to levels not seen in years. Keep in mind, these increases are happening all the while when we have tariffs still in full effect

Catalytic Converter Market News



Knowledge is Power. The team at RRCats.com wants to keep showing you how and why catalytic converter prices change. One of the things that they have been able to really show over the years is the growth in the prices shown by their online pricing charts. While the team at RRCats.com is always buying scrap cats, it is important to teach all customers and scrappers instead of just price things out. If you are looking to learn more about the catalytic converter market, you can always check out RRCats.com YouTube Channel for videos and knowledge. 

Today’s Market ????

All prices for Rhodium, Platinum, and Palladium are down week over week. Down is bad, but keep in mind that these markets are volatile right now and are trying to re-establish a base pricing as many of the markets were much lower just a short year ago. 

Scrap Catalytic Converter Prices This Week (03/24-03/30):

Cat Type/Serial Number


EA6 $500/@
GD3 $900/@
JSH62 $446/ @
12606389 $438 /@
25130440 $376/ @
Small Foreign $150/ @
Regular Domestic $233/ @


Thank You.

We are constantly looking to upgrade our material, our talking points and learn what YOU want to hear from us about scrap. Please do not be shy in letting us know so we can keep getting you more information that helps you make more money with your scrap.

– Tom

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