Press release

Scrap merchants fuelling metal theft to be barred

Anyone convicted of any crime relating to metal theft would be barred from working legitimately in the scrap business.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Dodgy scrap metal dealers linked to metal theft will have their licences torn up, Environment Minister Lord Taylor announced today.

Further changes proposed for existing legislation would also mean anyone convicted of transporting stolen metal could be forced out of business by having their carrier registration taken off them.

Environment Minister Lord Taylor said:

“Stolen metal will be too hot to handle.  Mindless criminals who steal from our railways and historic buildings, and the scrap dealers who fuel the market, are causing misery and anger for countless people.  

“We’ll purge the industry of rotten elements by flushing them out of legitimate businesses, or shutting dodgy businesses down altogether.”

The Environment Agency’s Chief Executive Paul Leinster said:  

“Metal theft continues to be a major problem so we welcome the wider range of convictions that will be available to us when deciding whether to issue or remove environmental permits.

“This builds on work we are doing to support the British Transport Police’s crackdown on metal theft and our on-going work to tackle illegal waste sites. Waste crime puts people and the environment at risk and undercuts legitimate businesses who take their environmental responsibilities seriously.”

By toughening up the range of convictions taken into consideration when deciding who is suitable to operate a business that either transports or handles waste, which includes scrap yards, the Environment Agency will be able crack down on anyone convicted of involvement in stealing metal.

Today’s announcement follows the commitment of £5 million to establish a dedicated metal theft taskforce to enhance law enforcement activity in this area, and the Home Secretary’s commitment to ban cash payments for scrap metal, as part of the cross-Whitehall drive to tackle metal theft.

Note to Editors

Convictions relating to pollution, harm to the environment or nuisance to nearby communities have previously been the only areas allowed to be taken into consideration when deciding whether a person or business is a ‘suitable’ person to run a waste facility or act as a waste carrier.

From April 2012, the Environment Agency will also take into consideration convictions linked with metal theft alongside other criteria when scrutinising all new applications for an environmental permit to run a scrap yard in response to the rising incidence of metal theft.  As a result of changes previously made to legislation they expect to handle up to 1,000 new applications for permits by October 2013. The Agency will also assess subsequent convictions of existing permitted sites and may revoke the permit in certain circumstances.

Today’s announcement will lead to  proposals for further changes to legislation, expected by April  2013, which will mean that such convictions would also be used when scrutinising all new applications to register to transport any waste.  Most waste carriers will need to re-register every three years, and under the changes all applications would be scrutinised using the additional tougher criteria. Registered carriers subsequently convicted of a relevant offence may have their registration revoked.

Published 8 February 2012