Scrap traders have expressed deep frustration over a new exam from the Environment Agency (EA) which will test their technical competence to operate a yard every two years.
The new test, Continuing Competence, replaces the Grandfather Rights certificate of technical competence. The change was introduced in December 2008, following consultation with industry and the test was made available in January 2009. Scrap traders now have seven months until the end of February 2012, to pass the test.
It is believed that if a yard does not have at least one employee with the Continuing Competence qualification they will not be able to legally operate.
A metal recycler, who did not wish to be named, told MRW: “I’m not happy at all. It’s myself and my father who have to take the test and he’s got no chance of passing it at the age of 62 years. Most people running scrap yards have operated their sites for years and have all the experience needed, which counts for more than qualifications.
“It’s also the extra cost of the exams. Everybody is already suffering from fuel increases and insurance premium rates, so margins are getting tighter and tighter.”
Another recycler added: “The problem is that the people taking the test may have all the knowledge needed but are not totally literate in the exact technical terms, so it will mean they fail and have to pay out to retake the test. If they don’t end up getting it, they may not be compliant and therefore may have to close their business.
“The smaller businesses are quite bewildered by it and everyone’s quite angry because they are no longer deemed technically competent.”
When changes were tabled, the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) did not support them, believing the previous system worked well for the companies involved.
BMRA head of environment Howard Bluck said: “Throughout the consultation process and since the adoption of the operator competence schemes, BMRA has expressed concern to Government and scheme operators over a number of key aspects of the scheme including: risk profiling of activities undertaken by metals recyclers; appropriateness of assessment content (BMRA has engaged proactively with Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Waste Management Indsutry and Training Board (WAMITAB) on this to develop the assessment questions for the sector-specific components of the assessments); the additional financial cost to businesses; and logistical challenges in getting those that require assessment through the system in time for the deadline (end-Feb 2012).”
The Association is currently in discussions with Defra, CIWM and WAMITAB on whether the frequency of reassessment would be more appropriate over a three or four-year period rather than two.