Recycling giant Sims Metal Management has urged the government to target illegal scrapyards rather than legitimate recyclers as it tries to tackle metal theft.
Labour MP Graham Jones last week introduced a private members’ bill that would abolish cash payments for scrap, make photo ID mandatory for sellers and give police powers to close any yard where stolen material was found.
Jones told MPs metal theft had reached a “crisis point” and that the current regulatory framework was ineffective. Transport minister Norman Baker has said the government is prepared to introduce legislation if necessary.
But a Sims spokesman told MRW: “We need to police existing regulations effectively before bringing in others.
“Local authorities are not chasing down illegal metal recyclers because the fines they receive are so low.”
The spokesman said introducing new legislation into the sector would just give those operating outside the law a further competitive edge.
“These guys will not be affected by cashless sites so you just upset the market.”
He added that Sims already refused to buy from people arriving on foot or by taxi and insisted on proof of address or photo identification from new sellers.
A spate of metal theft, driven by economic hardship and historically high prices, has seen churches, homes and railways targeted for copper and lead.