The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 has come into force in England and Wales, introducing a mandatory licensing regime for scrap metal dealers and greater powers to crack down on illegal traders.
Under the act, all site-based and mobile scrap dealers, including motor salvage operators, must obtain a licence from their local authority to continue operating legally and will have to pay a fee to cover the costs of the scheme.
Traders can apply for a temporary licence before 15 October while councils process applications. Full licences are only mandatory from 1 December.
The licences will allow the Environment Agency (EA) to run a national register of scrap metal dealers.
Councils can now inspect applicants’ criminal records to assess their suitability and they have the power to refuse, alter and revoke applications if the new regulations are not complied with.
Metal sellers will have to produce verifiable identification, which dealers must record and keep for two years.
Police and councils have increased powers for entry and inspection to act on illegal traders. Fines and sentences are being increased for dealers breaking the law.
Last year’s ban on cash payments by scrap metal dealers under the The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act is extended to all metal dealers including itinerant collectors.
The BMRA said it will create a “positive new era” for metals recycling: “It marks progress in the fight against metal theft because it will limit the potential outlets for stolen metal and expose unscrupulous dealers who act as conduits for stolen metal.”
Ian Hetherington, BMRA’s director general, said: “It’s an opportunity to rid the industry of the ‘Steptoe and Son’ stereotype once and for all.
“Metals recycling is a British success story; it contributes £5.6bn to the economy whilst increasing the UK’s share of the global market for recycled metals.”
The LGA said it expected the new law to help solve a national problem that costs the UK economy more than £700m every year and welcomed the protection against thieves targeting churches, desecrating war memorials and stealing electric cables and metal from railway lines.
Cllr Mehboob Khan, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Much of these stolen goods were ending up in scrap yards and out-dated legislation left councils powerless to act and having to pick up the bill to replace them at a time when funding cuts are putting a strain on their ability to deliver vital services.”