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Definition of Short Steel in Metal Recycling

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Recycling metals can be a good way to keep useful materials out of landfills while making a quick buck; many recycling and salvage yards will pay by the pound for metal scrap. Steel is recycled in various forms; "short steel" is a term used to identify a type of steel scrap commonly accepted for recycling. Other types include steel mill scale, steel can scrap, manganese steel scrap, steel siding and steel wheel rim scrap.

What Is Short Steel?

Short steel refers to literally short lengths of steel -- typically less than 3 feet in length. Short steel pays more than longer steel because it is easier to handle, separate and ship. Not uncommonly, individuals who have steel they wish to recycle will cut the steel into short lengths before taking it to the center so they will get the short steel premium for its weight. It may also be called short steel turnings.


For the highest price on short steel, separate it from other types of metals or debris, and box or package it in clean containers. In June 2011, short steel was valued at $250 per ton.

Sources of Short Steel

There are many sources for steel that would be considered short steel. According to TATA Steel, all steel packaging is recyclable -- including food cans, paint cans, aerosol cans and steel lids for glass jars and bottles. Steel components of appliances, steel drillings and borings, cut structural steel or automotive frames, steel electrical components and steel pipes can all be collected in short steel sizes or cut to make short steel.

Identifying Short Steel

Many metals are often confused, and short steel can be confused with bits of aluminum. One way to test the material to determine if it is steel is to take a brass key and scratch at the surface of the metal. Tin or aluminum will exhibit shallow scratches, where steel won't. Another way to determine if your metal is steel is to run a few small pieces through your dishwasher. Aluminum will appear faded or duller, where steel will still exhibit a glossy shine.

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