UK cash for scrap ban means stolen metal could be exported

New legislation will go a long way to tackling the problem of scrap metal theft, but the crafty thieves have a trick up their sleeve. If they can’t sell it here, why not export it?

As we have reported previously, the new Scrap Metal Dealers Act will be enforced in October. In a few months, itinerant traders, like licensed dealers, will no longer be able to give sellers cash for scrap metal.

Whilst there will be more power in the hands of local authorities and the police to deal with traders who do not comply with the terms of the new legislation, the problem of metal theft, which can be highly damaging to the community, will not simply go away.

Unable to trade their stolen metal in the UK, the thieves may try to export it to somewhere that will still enable them to receive cash for scrap, according to Handy Shipping Guide. The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has been letting its members know about this worrying prospect, following a warning by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

SOCA is concerned about locations such as farms and residential dwellings being used to dispatch containers full of scrap, via freight forwarding companies that are unaware of the contents of the containers they are dealing with. Normally, scrap exporters, if legitimate, will send their material overseas from their business premises.

Peter Quantrill, BIFA Director General, told Handy Shipping Guide:

“We are concerned that freight forwarders may become innocent accomplices in this traffic and we are urging them to alert the relevant authorities to any suspicions that they might have.”

BIFA has urged people to contact the police if they see any suspicious activity involving ocean containers, which are the usual way people in organised crime transfer items such as scrap metal abroad.

Recycling Lives shares BIFA’s concern about the possibility of stolen metal being exported. We have always been in favour of the cash ban applying to all traders, whether mobile or not, and we welcome the Scrap Metal Dealers Act because we believe it will go a long way towards addressing metal theft. But we also understand that criminals will do whatever they can to get around the law, so we are not surprised that they will try to send it overseas.

If Recycling Lives suspects any illegal activity concerning scrap metal, we will ensure that full details are passed on to the police, and we urge everyone to do the same. If we all work together to shut down the avenues for thieves to gain from stealing metal, we could be in with a chance of stopping the illegal trade in its tracks. And for the sake of the many people and communities who are victims of scrap metal theft, we’ll be doing our best.