United Kingdom – When the new Scrap Metal Dealers Act was implemented in the UK four years ago, the government and police were convinced that the cash payments ban and enhanced identity checks ‘would choke off outlets for stolen metal for good’. Since then, however, enforcement funding ‘has been cut and cut and cut’ to the point where ‘there is now no metal theft task force, few dedicated police officers and no appetite for going after yards openly paying cash for scrap metal’, the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) laments.
Initially, metal thefts were driven down by funded interventions and by the fact that ‘metal prices were crashing all around us’. Now, however, ‘metal prices are on the rise and so are thefts’, the association reports. In the past few weeks alone, it notes by way of example, more than 8 km of copper cable has been stolen directly from the ground in the north of England and Scotland.
As part of a late-2016 government review, the BMRA called for the Act to be further strengthened by making it an offence to receive cash for scrap under primary legislation. It also underlined the need for proper enforcement, with funding allocated to seeking out and shutting cash-paying yards which, according to the BMRA, are more likely to accept stolen metal and be ‘less than scrupulous’ when it comes to tax.
‘If the Act is not strengthened to make it illegal to accept cash for scrap metal and if the law is not upheld by strong enforcement, then it is worth little more than the paper it is written on,’ the BMRA insists. ‘In the face of rising prices, it is crucial that the government takes action now.’