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Scrap Metal Recycling

Learn how to manage scrap metal and determine when it becomes hazardous waste.


Scrap metal generated on campus must be recycled or removed as hazardous waste. Proper disposal and handling of scrap metal requires proper housekeeping procedures, including the use of correct storage bins. All personnel responsible for the requirements of this agreed-upon procedure must be trained at their specific site.

UC Zero Waste Commitment

The University of California system is committed to going zero waste by 2020, and already diverting 69 percent of solid waste from landfills systemwide. To get all the way to zero waste, everyone must help. Recycling scrap metal is an easy way to increase overall waste diversion and meet this goal. 

Determining if Scrap Metal is Recyclable 

Scrap metal may be recyclable or need special handling. Follow these guidelines to make this determination:

  • All scrap metal from any source if not recycled is considered hazardous waste.
  • Metal shavings with sizes of 100 microns or larger can be managed as scrap metal for recycling.
  • Metal sludge, dusts (<100 microns), and semi-solids are to be treated as hazardous waste and must be placed in sealed containers and correctly labeled.

Use the Managing Scrap Metal Recycling and Disposal flow chart to make this determination. 

Proper Housekeeping

Simple procedures such as cleaning, dusting, and organizing are essential for maintaining safe work practices and increasing productivity. Some tips for proper housekeeping include: 

  • Keeping one’s workspace and machinery clean.
  • Reporting leaks, spills, or faulty equipment.
  • Preventing dust inhalation by using proper equipment and controls when dealing with dust.

Direct Metal Recycle Bins

All waste that has metal shavings on it (e.g., plastic, paper, latex gloves, etc.) must be separated from these bins, placed in sealed containers, and labeled as “Hazardous Waste” to be picked up by EH&S using the online tagging system. Direct metal recycle bins should only be filled with metal and no other materials, even if the materials have metal shavings on them.


  • Metal Debris: Large pieces of scrap metal which can be all types of metals
  • Metal Shavings: Any scraps of metal that are larger than 100 microns
  • Powder and Grindings: Any metal dust that is smaller than 100 microns
  • Metal Contaminated Debris: Any materials that are covered in metal scraps or shavings that cannot be separated (i.e. rags, towels, latex gloves, plastic) — not trash!

Scrap metal is defined in section 261.1 (c)(6) of Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR) as: bits and pieces of metal parts (e.g., bars, turnings, rods, sheets, wire) or metal pieces that may be combined together with bolts or soldering (e.g., radiators, scrap automobiles, railroad box cars), which when worn or superfluous can be recycled.

For more information, contact the EH&S Environmental Management Facility, (858) 534-2753.
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