Recycling scrap metal means keeping it out of landfills and reducing the need to harvest virgin materials for new metals. Some metals like copper are very valuable and can fetch a high price from a recycling yard, although everyday metals such as tin can also mean getting money for your cans and other such pieces. Before you do show up at a recycling facility with a truckload of metal or other items, note a few questions to ask or check on their website so you're prepared for what to expect.

1. Ask what sorting needs to be done

Metal may all look alike to you, but chances are a recycling yard will want you to separate your pieces, even the soup cans from the soda cans. This is because these things are all made with different types of metal and they may need different recycling processes. Some scrap yards may take a bundle of metal and sort it themselves, whereas others may expect you to do some basic sorting before they can take your goods; this may reduce the price you're paid. Be sure you find out about this so you aren't turned away at the door because you have a bin of mixed metals or get less money than you expected.

2. Ask if you need to provide any proof of ownership or identification

To help avoid buying stolen metal, copper wiring, and the like, scrap yards may ask for some type of proof of ownership or identification. This can be especially true if you're bringing in electronics, car parts, grocery carts, and other pieces that are prime targets for thieves. For very large payouts, a scrap yard may also need to fill out paperwork that shows you're earning an income from the materials they've gotten from you. Be sure you ask what paperwork or identification they need from you, especially if you're bringing in any large quantity of metal.

3. Note if you expect to be paid in cash

Many scrap yards will pay a small amount in cash but may have a limit; after a certain amount, they may only cut you a check. If you need cash for whatever reason, be sure you check on this. You might need to break up your trips to the recycling center so you only get so much money each day and can be paid in cash, or you may need to find a scrap yard that does pay in cash for all materials.