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Reformed regime for scrap metal licensing takes effect

The full requirements of the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act, as recently revised by the government, now apply to scrap traders, after the end of a temporary licensing period on December 1. The new regime brings significant changes to scrap metal recycling, Collect and Recycle (http://www.collectandrecycle.com) reports.

The law covers England and Wales, and makes it a requirement for a scrap metal dealer to obtain a licence to trade from their local council. Firms registering with the authorities will also be subject to more stringent background checks.

With the intention of curbing the trade for stolen scrap metal, the law has been effect since October, when a now-expired two month temporary licensing period to register with a local authority was granted to scrap traders. The legislation means that metal can now only be bought by scrap dealers with a crossed cheque or via electronic transfer, while the identity of material sellers must now also be recorded.

Such a major change in aluminium and copper recycling has been welcomed by the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), representatives of the UK’s licensed scrap recycling trade. However, although the body said that potential outlets for stolen scrap would be limited and ‘unscrupulous’ traders exposed by the new legislation, the police, local authorities and Environment Agency needed to robustly enforce the requirements, in order to prevent licensed operators continuing to be undermined by illegal trade.

BMRA director general Ian Hetherington commented: “It is imperative that the new Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act is enforced with vigour. It will be a challenge for local authorities and police due to pressures on resources and decline in the focus on metal theft. However, the BMRA will work closely with both the police and councils to ensure that this is implemented properly.”

The latest Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act is far from the only recent piece of legislation to affect the industry for copper and aluminium recycling, with the aim of eradicating the trade in stolen metal. A mere 12 months earlier, the Legal Aid and Sentencing of Offenders (LASPO) Act was passed, banning trading in cash by scrap dealers.

Indeed, the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act closes a loophole in the LASPO Act that had enabled the continued payment for scrap by itinerant traders, in response to industry concerns that legitimate trade would be undermined as a result.

The latest Act coming fully into effect follows other good news for this part of UK recycling, Home Office figures released on November 28 having shown a decline in occurrences of metal theft across the year ending March 2013. 61,349 incidences of metal theft were recorded during that period, with the final quarter January to March 2013 figure of 12,076 comparing well to the 20,151 seen in the first quarter, from April to June 2012.