When first mooted, commentators declared that the Scrap Metal Dealers Act was the single biggest challenge to face metal recyclers in England and Wales.
Skip forward four years and the industry is facing an even bigger challenge, namely Fire Prevention Plans (FPPs) which, if implemented as originally written, could seriously impact the metal recycling industry – many small yards in particular would not have the space or budget to comply.
Few, if any, companies went out of business due to the Act but that risk is very real with FPPs. The BMRA is working with the Environment Agency to develop sector-specific guidance, which we hope agency staff will honour.
At the same time, there is the ongoing issue of enforcement. The BMRA is regularly told about yards openly paying cash for scrap metal yet, unless that metal is evidently stolen, the police remain unable to act, largely because they do not have the resources.
This is incredibly frustrating as the one simple request the industry made to the Government when the Act was introduced was that it would be fully enforced.
At the time of writing, we are waiting for a Home Office report and recommendations following its review of the Act. While we remain hopeful that some amendments will be made to strengthen it, we are not optimistic.
It is also clear that the responsibility for enforcement is being placed on the shoulders of councils and police services – with or without funding. This is perplexing because to truly combat metal theft, outlets for stolen metal need to be identified and closed. Yards openly paying cash seem a good place to start as they are logically more likely to accept stolen materials.
Victims of metal theft have formed the Alliance for Combatting Metal Theft to petition the Government to fund a dedicated metal theft taskforce to help curtail both metal theft and cash payments once and for all.
Robert Fell is chief executive at British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA)