‘Elmos’ for Sale

Scrap metal trade governed by quirky nomenclature

There are wordsmiths aplenty who wish they had this man’s job.

Randy Goodman, Executive Vice President with Atlanta’s Greenland America, Inc., also creates and designates the terminology for the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc., the association of U.S. scrap dealers. It goes a little something like this…take ‘el’ from ‘electric’, and ‘mo’ from motors’… and you have ‘elmo’. Shredded electric motors are simply ‘shelmo’. Oh, it gets better.


The U.S. scrap metal industry has exported more than $23 billion dollars of product to 160 countries.

As John W. Miller of the Wall Street Journal reports, Goodman’s position is integral to the business. The U.S. produces more scrap metal than any other country, and exports it to places like China, Germany, India, and Turkey, as well as our immediate neighbors in Canada and Mexico. With all this international trade, communication needs to be specified in a ubiquitous language. All of Goodman’s (and three others nationwide) creations can be pronounced universally, and describe the type of metal – what its elemental composition is, as well as the condition.

So as not to piggyback on all of Mr. Miller’s work, EA went from the ground up on this one for examples (not like it was hard; the website has a complete list of the terms available for download). When the copper wiring from an electric motor is ready to be thrown out, for example, all you have to do is get it to a scrap site or have it picked up. Categorizing it is a different story, because copper has about 20 classifications. ‘Barley’ is copper wire, ‘Berry’ is copper wire devoid of tin. ‘Droid’ is insulated copper wire scrap, and not the only Star Wars-inspired label.

There’s something for everyone. Searching for answers? ‘Nomad’ is yellow brass turnings. Afraid to say the technical term? ‘Taboo’ is mixed low copper aluminum clippings and solids. Rock ‘n roll enthusiasts have ‘Zeppelin’ for light density mixed metals, and ‘Ranch’ is block tin, or for those who are ready for lunch. ‘Elias’ and ‘Erin’ pay homage to great names.

In all, the value of scrap commodities exported helping trade balances is 23.7 billion dollars, from 43.8 million metric tons of exported product. EA‘s vote for the industry’s umbrella term: ‘Dimes’. Billions and billions of them.

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