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Understanding Scrap Metal Law

Some may assume, as a result of pop culture’s portrayal and/or the information they have been handed, that the scrap metal industry lacks regulation. This is incorrect. There are certain laws – albeit recently implemented – that regulate the industry and encompass the safety of scrap metal dealers and customers. Here at Craddock Metal Recycling, we decided to offer a brief overview of the main aspects of scrap metal law: find out more below.

Scrap Metal Dealers Act (2013)

There are a few key aspects of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act (SMDA) that have been introduced in order to curb metal theft, which costs the UK economy £220m each year. Firstly, a license is required for trading, which is to be issued by the local authority. Should a site be found practicing without this license, they could be issued with a fine of up to £5,000. Furthermore, this aspect of scrap metal law states there should be no payments for scrap metal made using cash. Payments must be made through electronic bank transfer or cheque. “Mobile dealers” are also required to comply with this. Finally, records to be kept by scrap metal dealers must be very thorough. There must be a record of the name and address of the seller (to be confirmed using their passport or picture card driving license) and a record of the receipt of the metal (disclosing all relevant details including weight and type).

Effectively, the government endeavour to reduce the amount of “cash-in-hand” and untraceable trade, which is theoretically targeted at reducing metal theft; if there isn’t anyone to buy it, there is no need to steal. The main objective of this aspect of scrap metal law is to enforce businesses to maintain the proper documentation and ‘paper trails’ that will ensure all business is legal.

Environmental Regulations

Considering the potentially dangerous nature of scrap metal, there has been regulatory legislation introduced; this combats the negative impacts that can cause harm to either the environment or the people dealing with the materials. For example, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment recycling (WEEE), which generally encompasses items with a plug or that require a battery, needs to be closely monitored. The importance of competently disposing of WEEE stems from the increasing number of these products being discarded (roughly 2 million tonnes worth each year) and the nature of these items: many contain harmful materials including mercury, arsenic and lead. The scope of these materials is so wide that one specific method of disposal cannot be disclosed. However, methods such as shredding and disassembly (either manual, automated or a combination of the two) are the most commonly accepted by scrap metal law.

Scrap metal law states that dealers must obtain a Certificate of Conformity. This certificate proves that the site and business operate within the guidelines of EU Waste Regulations. Much as with many – if not all – industries, it is important that businesses hold this documentation in order to showcase their competence and compliance with the law.

In conclusion, with the growing need for proper dealing with WEEE and the notorious metal theft issue the UK holds, scrap metal law improvement is an important step to removing the stigma attached to the scrap metal industry. It’s important to remember that these regulations are set to protect people and the environment, and can have such hidden benefits. For example, eradicating all unlawful scrap yards could potentially mean fewer rail delays as metal thieves are renowned for stealing railway cables, which cause delays when repairs are required.


If you would like to hear more about the waste management and scrap metal services we have to offer; visit our services page, fill out our online contact form or call us on 01527 668 66.