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SA scrap export ban criticised

Plans by the South African government to tackle metal theft from public buildings and infrastructure by banning exports of scrap have been condemned by traders.

A proposed ban was set out in August and, in response, the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) has written to the government complaining on the impact on trade, and particularly those in the nation’s Metals Recyclers Association (MRA).

BIR supports the improvement of regulatory enforcement and actions to stop the theft of metals from public infrastructure but expresses strong concerns about any policy linking metal theft with metal trade.

‘BIR stresses that restricting the trade of ferrous and nonferrous metals does not address the root cause of the theft problem,’ the letter says. ‘Instead, it would cause substantial harm to an essential economic sector that directly contributes to a stronger, more sustainable and circular economy. Export restrictions are an ineffective policy response to prevent metal theft from public infrastructure.’

BIR recommends considering other ways of preventing theft and protecting public assets:

  • Supporting legitimate recycling businesses by closing illegal operations, unregulated scrap yards and unregulated metalworks and foundries.
  • Protecting public infrastructure by marking metals; installing monitors of power, or of data or other parameters such as the voltage drop on cables to indicate a theft is taking place; by joining forces with police and industry security patrols to catch criminals in the act.
  • Ensuring the traceability of scrap metal from industry and consumers that enter legitimate recycling enterprises.
  • Introducing stronger penalties for the destruction and theft of infrastructure.

BIR says it ‘stands ready’ to engage with the South African government or any other national authority in the efforts to limit metal theft, without resorting to a ban on scrap exports.

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