• Virginia man pays for health insurance with metal scraps

    Virginia man pays for health insurance with metal leftovers
  • NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A wedding cake costs about 14,400 aluminum cans.
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  • NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A wedding cake costs about 14,400 aluminum cans.
    Jim Ridenhour, a retired Newport News, Va., firefighter, discovered that when he turned to metal scrapping as a way to pay for his daughter's wedding about two years ago.
    Since then, his part-time hobby has turned into a full-blown profession, earning him more than $1,000 in February alone.
    Ridenhour, a Carrollton, Va., resident, primarily picks up scrap metal from personal contacts and references. He also responds to ads on websites like Craigslist and solicits friends on Facebook for scrap pick-ups.
    "I'm getting it out of the way for someone who would just throw it in a landfill," he says. "This way, the stuff gets recycled. I feel like it's free money out there, but my wife tells me that I've earned it with my time and labor," he said.
    Most often, metal scrapping is referenced in relation to a crime, a fact that Ridenhour says makes it hard for the people legitimately recycling the materials.
    Copper theft, in particular, is a "longstanding regional problem," the Isle of Wight County, Va., sheriff's office said in a December statement, referencing the theft of outdoor heating and air conditioning units and pipes from several county churches.
    Metal theft insurance claims increased by 36 percent when reviewing claims made in 2010-2012 over insurance claims reported in the three-year period between 2009 and 2011, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
    "During this period (2010-2012), 33,775 insurance claims for the theft of copper, bronze, brass or aluminum were handled — 32,568 of them (96 percent) for copper alone," according to the report.
    Ridenhour said local scrap yards ask for fingerprints and copies of your driver's license when you turn in metal scrap. This way, he said, there's an attempt to separate the honest scrappers from the thieves.
    But even for 64-year-old Ridenhour, scrapping can be a bit of a wild world. Drivers eye one another's truckloads as they enter the scrap yard, sometimes negotiating swaps before moving on to have their scraps weighed. Sharing secrets about where they found the metal is never a part of the transaction.
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