If you’ve taken down an old wire fence in the yard and are wondering what to do with it – then it might be worth recycling. That way you’ll be clearing unsightly waste whilst also doing some good for the environment. But can you recycle old wire fences and how do you do it?
Fencing wire can be recycled at your nearest scrap yard. Use a magnet to divide it into ferrous metals (iron and steel), and non-ferrous metals (copper, aluminum, brass, bronze and stainless steel), and you can recycle both. Many scrap yards say if your fencing is over 50% iron they’ll take it.
Let’s dive down into this topic in more detail, and look at how and where to recycle old wire fencing. We’ll also consider how to recycle other metal items such as barbed wire, nails, electrical wire, coat hangers and chicken wire.
Can I Recycle Fencing Wire & Where Can I Take it?
Note to Reader: recycling rules vary from area to area. Be sure to check with your local government websites, or call them, for their rules. Before hauling a bunch of fencing to the transfer station, you may even want to scout out the place in person and talk to an attendant.
Can you recycle fencing wire? Yes! Most fencing wire can absolutely be recycled. All metal materials are 100% recyclable. Except for – plutonium and uranium. All you basement-dwelling, radioactivity geeks – sorry, no recycling for you.
For the rest of us, recycling your wire fencing is a green thing to do and you may even make some green (as in – greenbacks).
Fencing wire shouldn’t be added to your usual curbside recycling bins. Most curbside recycling services label wire as a “tangler” – along with hangers, rope, hoses, wire, and chains. The problem is their sorting machines get jammed with long, skinny stuff. So, you’ll have to find an alternative.
First question – is your fence made of iron? Check it with a magnet off the refrigerator. If your fence is ferrous, then the magnet will stick. Non-ferrous metals are copper, aluminum, brass, bronze, and stainless steel. Non-ferrous metals are also recyclable and may be worth some bucks.
Once you have that ferrous/non-ferrous answer, you can start checking with scrap yards or salvage yards in your area. Google “scrap metal buyers near me”.
Many scrap yards have a 50% rule. If your fencing is over 50% iron, they will take it. Check several to get the best prices. Many scrap yards want the fencing rolled up and tied – check the rules before you go.
In fact, you might want to go to the scrap yard first. There’s nothing more annoying than showing up with a truck or trailer-full of wire only to find out they won’t actually take it.
If you can’t sell it or don’t want to, check your local transfer station for wire recycling rules. If one says they’ll accept wire fencing, go there. Check with the attendants to make sure your fencing qualifies and ask about their rules.
While you’re there, ask some questions so you don’t waste a trip. Should it be tied? Loose? Squashed together? Cut into certain sizes? What about non-metal fence parts?
Finally, look at the bin where metal scraps go. Will it be easy to put heavy bundles of fencing inside? If not, you might need to bring a buddy to help lift it over the side. Most transfer stations caution you that the attendants aren’t there to help you (but some do anyway).
There are many more ways to recycle or upcycle wire fencing. Check with local nonprofits. Many areas have Habitat for Humanity ReStore stores. These stores take building materials. Be sure to call first for their rules. Many ReStore stores require fencing to be in good condition – no rust.
Run an ad on Craigslist, TradeMe or Trade & Exchange. Put a “free stuff” ad in your local area websites like Nextdoor or your HOA. If your fence is chain-link, consider calling local animal shelters or community garden centers. Google local metal artists – farmhouse and metal art is trending. Get creative! Repurpose wire fencing in your own garden.
You are doing a good thing – metal can be recycled over and over. Much of the recycled metal in the US is used to manufacture new items like building materials, cars, airplanes, light fixtures, metal roofing, appliances, and plumbing.
What’s more, making stuff from recycled aluminum takes less processing – and produces fewer greenhouse gasses – than the first time.
How Do You Dispose of Barbed Wire? (Do Scrap Yards Take it?)
Barbed wire recycling is tricky. Some transfer stations do take barbed wire. Some scrap yards won’t because of the barbs.
Your best bet is to make a personal visit to the transfer station or scrap yard. Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a representative piece with you. Is it rusty? Is it falling apart?
Their answer may depend on what shape it’s in. A scrap yard that says yes over the phone may change their mind once they see your sample.
Can Chicken Wire Be Recycled?
Call your local scrap yard and see if they will buy it. If not, most transfer stations will take chicken wire.
Chicken wire is lightweight, cuts and folds easily. First, dismantle the chicken wire and lay it out flat. Cut it into manageable pieces with wire cutters. Then, fold or roll it into bundles.
Or give it away. Lots of folks have backyard chickens. Instead of hauling it to the transfer station, consider posting it on a local group website like Nextdoor, Craigslist, Facebook, or your neighborhood HOA website.
Finally, you could let your inner artist out with chicken wire sculptures, like these (amazing!).
Where Can I Dispose of Wire Hangers?
If you are loading up the back of the truck with metal stuff, be sure to add those horrible old wire hangers (just save one for breaking into your old car).
Other places to get rid of old wire hangers might be dry-cleaning shops, and local free stuff websites. Scrap yards may take your hangers if you show up with other (better) metal stuff.
If you are making a trip to the transfer station or scrap yard, be sure to load up some pet food cans, aluminum stuff like foil or pie pans, bottle caps and lids, food cans and that can of old screws.
Are Metal Wires Recyclable? (Electrical Cords & Cables)
Bare metal wires are recyclable as metals. You can just take them to your local transfer station. But for coated cords and cables, that’s a different story.
Most transfer stations will take coated cables, but not all. Call or ask an attendant to be sure, because some require that you remove the plastic or insulated covering first.
Check with a local electronics liquidator, or E-waste company to get rid of coated cables. The stores that take your old TV or appliances sometimes take electrical cords too. A techno-trash company will dispose of electronic trash for as little as $7 for 20 pounds.
Finally, if your electrical cables contain copper, you can sell them to scrap yards. Many bare metal wires are copper, for grounding. Copper is the most valuable metal. At the time of this writing, scrap yards were paying over $2 a pound for copper.
Many scrap yards will accept phone cables, speaker cables, coax cables, power cords, Ethernet cables and home appliance cables. To get the highest price, consider stripping them of the rubber or plastic sheathing first.
Can I Put Old Nails & Screws in The Recycling?
Even though nails and screws are small and can easily fit into your home recycling bin, most waste management companies ask you not to put them there. You’ll have to take them yourself to a transfer station or scrap yard.
Keep old nails, bolts and screws in an old coffee can or container. Add springs, nuts, fasteners, large staples, ballpoint pen insides, small broken parts and even steel wool. When you are making a trip to the scrapyard, take them. You won’t get much money, but they will melt them down. And – better for an old screw to end up in a can than in your tire.
If you are making a trip to a transfer station, most of them will take screws, nuts, bolts, and nails.
Here’s a handy (and surprising) list of 200+ items you can recycle.
Final Words: Let’s Take This Down To The Wire
Ultimately, if you divide your scrap metal into manageable chunks and separate it out into different types, you should be able to recycle most of it at your local scrap yard or recycling center. Just check with them first so they know what’s coming.
While scrap metal does have a small value, don’t expect to be paid for your old fencing wire unless you’re a commercial operation recycling metal on an industrial scale.
For most householders, just being able to get rid of the stuff while doing something good for the environment will be reward enough.
Homeowner and property investor Larry Jones founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >