One for the scrapbook

I’ve looked at a pile of junk under the breakfast room window in the driveway for, oh, a couple of years. It’s on top of the last unfinished bit of the Great Driveway/ Retaining Wall Project of ’07 (been waiting for the contractor to return and give us a price since last fall), and consists of a giant metal garbage pail and lid that used to be buried in the ground near the garage (now filled with old plumbing parts, the metal hinges and such from our old garage doors, and lengths of old electrical wire), various pipes from our sewer and plumbing projects, and the remnants of some metal shelving that disintegrated in the shed.

I’ve complained about it about 742 times, and whined about just throwing it away. But Mike was adamant: It had to go to the scrap yard. It could be recycled, and we’d get some money for it.

Last year, he got $20 for some wire and other junk he took to the yard.

I laughed.

He probably spent a couple hours collecting and cleaning up the stuff to take, and another hour at the scrap yard. Plus the gas to get there, etc. I’m all for recycling, but the ROI just wasn’t there for me in this case (and that’s when prices for scrap were through the roof — demand from China and all that).

When he returned, he told me what an ordeal it was. Apparently, the scrap yard is run like a prison camp. You better know the drill (which is not intuitive, nor spelled out in any way), or burly men yell at you.

I got to see it firsthand when we finally, finally, finally, with much joy and giddiness on my part, loaded up the truck on Saturday morning to get rid of the pile of junk under the breakfast room window.

The scrap yard is at the end of a typical city residential street — you pass houses perched close together on both sides, then suddenly there’s a massive scrap yard in front of you.

We got into a line of 3 or 4 vehicles in front of us — not moving much because coming the other way is a line of vehicles that have already dropped off scrap, and you take turns stopping at a building that really does look like a lock-up facility. You’re supposed to stop in a particular place, because the road has a scale in it that will weigh your vehicle (the “before” weight). But no one tells you that. If you stop short or go too far, you get yelled at.

When you finally get positioned, a guy yells out to ask your name, then looks out a window at what you have to offer (everyone brings pick-up trucks or trailers). Most people then get out of their truck while it’s weighed — though I haven’t figured out why.

Then the guy yells out some instructions about where to go to deposit the scrap you have, to the tune of “left, right, up the hill, see the guy working.” If you have a mixed load — some iron, some copper, etc., you’ll have to go through the drill a couple of times.

This is where it really gets fascinating.

I didn’t think to bring my camera, but Mike had his phone. We surreptitiously snapped a few photos — afraid of being yelled at (or shot) as industrial spies or something. Mike said innocently, no pun intended, “Just tell them it’s for your scrapbook,” which I laughed delightedly at.

On your left-right-up-the-hill journey, you pass massive piles of scrap — like these cubes (cars?).


Or these, which I think Mike said were brake something-or-others.


The coolest thing is that when you “see the guy working,” he turns out to be operating a huge magnet on a crane. You unload your scrap and he picks it up with this giant magnet and dumps it in a pile. It was scary being so close to it, and you wonder that it doesn’t rip the fillings from your teeth or scoop up your truck or the guy’s next to you.


You see weird abandoned (I think) buildings — was this a trailer or something to do with the railroad that runs alongside?


The whole thing is very Apocalypse Now.


Note the houses in the background — quite the scenic view.


After dropping off your scrap, you proceed back down the hill to the lock-up building, wait in the line for your “after” weigh-in, and then pull over and proceed into the building to get paid.

Mike returned in a few minutes, clutching a receipt and…a $10 bill.

Our 45 minutes or so of time and 2 years of looking at junk yielded us $10, which we promptly blew $7 of buying pastries at the bakery on the way home. (Our neighbor told us she recently took a washer and dryer there and got $7.50.)

Last year — we may have gotten $20 for the same load (200 lbs.), but naturally the economic slowdown has hit everywhere.

So that was our Saturday morning. And you know what — the adventure’s not over. We were 5 minutes from the place when Mike yelled “Oh crap!” (or words to that effect). Seems we forgot to load the aluminum storm door that’s been in the way in the garage since we replaced it last year. Hell — maybe we’ll get $2 for it (I think crap I mean scrap aluminum is $0.35 a pound right now.)

Actually, the fascination factor was worth the hassle (this time) — I’ve never been to such a place and it was pretty cool. And, it’s good for the planet.



You learn something every day if you pay attention.
~ Ray LeBlond