HOME >> Different Grades of Copper Scrap

In case of copper, there are some grades, like #1, #2, that we often encountered but may be confused with. Scrap copper prices vary depending on the grade of scrap. Recycling companies tend to have their own rules of classification. Knowing about the common rules of some common grades will help us know more about the copper and get more value out of it.


Bare Bright Copper is the most valuable type and highest paying grade of copper. It shall consist of # 1 bare, uncoated, unalloyed copper wire and cable, not smaller than 16 gauge. It refers to wire only, and copper pipe is not allowed. Bare bright copper is also referred to as Bright & Shiny copper. As it implies, the copper must be free from tarnish or any other impurities that keeps it from being bright & shiny, no paint, and has been stripped of all insulation as well as all other materials. It must be free of oxidation. Very minimal patina can be on the wire.


#1 Copper is the second highest paying copper grade. It applies to clean, unalloyed, and uncoated copper in the forms of bus bars, clippings, punchings, commutator segments, and wire no thinner than 1/16 of an inch (thicker than a pencil lead). Clean copper tubing may be included, being the most valuable type of copper pipe. It should be no paint, solder, insulation, fittings, and all other materials. Small amounts of oxidation are acceptable. Most copper tubing and copper pipes are Copper #1 provided the fittings are already off and they are not too corroded. 


#2 Copper is the third most valuable grade of copper. It is somewhat dirty, consists of miscellaneous, unalloyed pipe, wire, and other solids that have any solder, paint, and any type of coating on them, having a nominal 96% copper content (minimum 94%).  Wire must be bare (without insulation) and is 1/16” or smaller, thinner than a pencil lead. The copper ends and fittings are accepted here, different from #1 copper pipe. Oxidation of pipe/tubing and wire are allowed, but cannot be excessive.


#1 Insulated Wire shall consist of clean, untinned, uncoated, unalloyed copper wire and cable, plastic insulated, with all ends cut off. Must be 16 gauge or thicker. It does not need to be stripped of its insulation. If insulation were to be removed, it would look like Bare Bright Copper wire.  


#2 Insulated Copper Wire shall consist of miscellaneous, unalloyed copper wire. It is plastic insulated, includes heavy or double insulation, Wire smaller than 16 gauge is acceptable. Some corrosion or other coatings such as tin and nickel are also considered #2 insulated copper. If insulation were to be removed, it would look like #2 copper wire. #2 Insulated Copper Wire includes most telecommunication wire such as cat4, cat5, cat6 and phone wire without plugs. Another example are most 110 outlet cords and extension cords, have their ends off.
Anyway, if you don’t know the grades of copper scrap, you can always check the website of the recycling company. Most of them will have their own definitions of those grades posted online. If you have large scales of insulated copper, and would like to get more money, you can use a wire stripping machine to strip the insulations off.

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