Recycling Electric Motors

When dealing with electric motors, knowing how to dispose of them is not necessarily common sense. Because many people do not know the proper technique, these electric motors end up in landfills where they take up space and negatively impact the environment. Therefore, electric motor recycling is essential.

What is an Electric Motor?

Before elaborating on the recycling process, it is crucial to understand exactly what electric motors are. Electric motors convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. What’s more, they also generate mechanical energy through the interaction of its windings and magnetic field. Some devices that require an electric mower include:
  • Industrial fans
  • Blowers
  • Pumps
  • Disk drives
  • Various machine tools
To understand how electric motors work, one must be familiar with the mechanics.

The Mechanics of Electric Motors

Electric motors contain valuable copper and aluminum components. The strong steel shell on the outside of these motors protect the fragile parts within. Copper within an electric motor is very valuable to the recycler; behind that is aluminum. Steel can be recycled, but it does not hold the same value as copper or aluminum. Consequently, wood and plastic on mowers is considered a contaminate which lowers the value. As a result, out of the millions of pounds of motors Interco recycles each year, our recyclers categorize these motors into three main categories:
  1. Small motor sizes range from slightly larger than the size of an apple to the size of a basketball. Smaller electric motors (i.e. small electronic transformers in radio-controlled cars) are less desirable because of their low copper and aluminum content.
  2. Large motor sizes range from slightly larger than a basketball to just under 2,000 pounds.
  3. Over-sized motors weigh over 2,000 pounds. These motors vary in demand due to their size and nonferrous metallic content.
After understanding the mechanics of an electric mower, one must understand the different components.

The Components of Electric Motors

While an electric motor contains several components, the crucial elements that are responsible for its converting ability are:
  • The shaft
  • Copper windings
  • Bearings
  • Armature
  • Stator
  • Commutator
  • Terminals
  • Case
These parts make it possible for the electric motor to convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. Now that the mechanics and components of electric motors have been examined, it is key to know how to use scrap electric motors for recycling.

What Does the Process Entail?

The process of electric motor recycling consists of:
  1. Collecting as many scrap electric motors as possible to increase the possibility of getting enough copper.
  2. Breaking the metallic cast of the motor with a hammer or hammering mill.
  3. Separating the components and grouping them according to their materials.
  4. Taking the separated components to their different recycling points and recycling them.
Electric motor recycling is done mainly on a large scale. Because of this, some scrap electric motors do not have enough copper windings. If this approach cannot be done on its own, professional recyclers buy damaged devices that use electric motors. In addition, almost every household electric item with a mechanical movement uses an electric motor. Subsequently, electric motors are a very common item to recycle. Some might even have an AC (alternating current) or a DC (direct current) electric motor.

Common Household Items with Electric Motors Include:

  • Microwaves
  • Hand Tools
  • Air Conditioners
  • Power Supplies
  • Starters
  • Washing Machines
  • Computers

Common Industrial Items with Electric Motors Include:

  • Transformers
  • Pumps
  • Machinery
  • Manufacturing Equipment

Common Automotive Items with Electric Motors Include:

  • Starters
  • Alternators
  • Generators
Finally, its’ crucial to understand exactly why it is so vital to the environment to recycle electric motors.

The Importance of Electric Motor Recycling

One reason to recycle electric motors is to make a profit by selling them to professional recyclers like Interco. Electric motors are 100% recyclable because of their metallic components. These professional recyclers separate the recyclable parts and set them apart for processing. Another reason is because recycling scrap electric motors reduces solid waste, landfill and general pollution. Most industries use electric motors for common devices. Reusing them for this purpose instead of scrapping them reduces waste. Also, recycling scrap electric motors helps to protect natural resources such as copper (one of the main components of electric motors). Additionally, copper is very valuable and used in many electrical devices.


Overall, electric motors have several valuable and reusable parts including copper and aluminum. They can be found in common household, industrial and automotive settings. Recycling these motors is profitable, reduces pollution and protects natural resources. So, if you have scrap electric motors, companies like Interco will buy them so they can be recycled properly; and if you are interested in electric motor recycling yourself, click here to learn more.
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