Spoiler alert: NO!
We saw a disturbing video of a man advocating the burning of insulated copper wire, purportedly to qualify the wire as Copper #2, which brings a higher sale value when sold as scrap than insulated wire. Please don’t do this.
Burning insulated wire in Texas is ILLEGAL under the federal Clean Air Act.
Burning copper wire is not a safe way to release the copper inside it. Burning copper wire releases carcinogens and toxins into the air and into the ground around the burn site, including “dioxins, furans, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, particulate matter, heavy metals (such as lead, arsenic, selenium and cadmium) and other pollutants.”
You might wonder how burning copper wire yourself is different from the industrial process used to reclaim copper from insulated wire. It’s true that heat is also used to strip copper wire in a commercial setting. There is a big difference between holding copper wire over a flame, as an amateur might do, and a factory that uses the intense heat of an industrial incinerator and appropriate venting procedures. Burning insulated copper wire yourself releases toxins that can damage your nervous system, respiratory system, and cardiovascular system, not to mention increasing your risk of cancer.
Fines and punishment for not following this code are steep. You could face fines in the tens of thousands of dollars or even jail time. If someone should catch you burning insulated wire, they can report you for a reward.
This blog post from Scrap Metal Junkie breaks down the foolishness of burning copper wire for economic purposes.
Say for example that #1 copper scrap is worth 2.60 per pound, scrap insulated wire is worth $1.20 per pound, and burned wire is worth $2.20 per pound… For a pile of wire that weighs under 100 lbs, there is NO reason to burn it.
If you burned 100 lbs of insulated copper wire copper wire, and you end up with less than 60 pounds of burned copper, then that means you have broken even…(When you burn copper wire, it loses about half its weight, depending on the type of wire.)
On the other hand, if you were to strip the same wire, you would make at least $31!