Scrap Chat With The Scrap Metal Dealer's Association

Posted 15th September, 2019

Gillian Temple is the President of the Scrap Metal Dealer's Association. Who else better to ask for an opinion of the state of the scrap metal industry in the UK. We put ten questions to the industry veteran to get an understanding of what is happening out there and what is on the mind of the scrap dealers that are a part of the association. 

If you are interested in more information on the Scrap Metal dealers Association then we encourage you to visit their website. Here you will find lots of information regarding industry topics and inofrmation onhow you can join the association. 

Q1: What is the Scrap Metal Dealers Association, and why was it formed?

The Scrap Metal Dealers Association has the sole aim of providing our members Protection, Education Guidance and Support. We are the only Association that caters for everyone that is licensed under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which includes Scrap Metal Dealers, Motor Salvage Operators, ATF’s and Collectors. We were formed in 2013 before the SMDA 2013 became law because so many businesses were being unlawfully raided under an amendment of LASPO ( Legal aid sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012) and no other Association was there to stand up and protect us. A very small group of scrap metal dealers got together and decided to watch each other’s backs. This has now evolved into our Association as it is today.

Q2: What would you say are the most significant issues facing UK scrap dealers in 2019?

There are four main problems that are affecting our members. The one that bothers us the most is Licensing. There are many Local Authorities that do not know about our industry or what their role under the scrap metal dealers Act 2013. We as an Association have been rolling out nationally a training programme to provide Local Authorities, the Police and the Environment Agency training - Ironic that we police the police that police us.

So far we have discovered councils that have been fraudulently telling collectors that they need site licenses, so that they collect a high fee. These collectors now have their homes registered as sites, yet they have no site permits from the EA, they have invalidated their home insurance, the police could raid their “site” at any point. They are subjected to a level 5 fine if they don’t have a site license on their front door, they are breaking the law or have children in their “site” or if they Smoke on site. None of these homes has fire prevention plans in place. What is so criminal about this, is that the licensing officer hand delivers the license to their home, knowing full well it isn’t a site with planning permission. He was the one that worked out how much it would cost for the council to do a site inspection and yet he charged these poor collectors for a service he knew he would never carry out.

Other councils have been charging collectors the same price as a site license, and we as an Association have had to demand refunds as it breaches the Home office guidelines. We have also found councils like Bath and North Somerset that have been charging £601 for a licence and then inventing a maintenance charge of £3270 per ever site and collector in their area. Because the cost was so high, they offered yearly instalments, again totally unlawful, and again we managed to get all the money refunded to the scrap dealers, collectors and motor salvage operators. Once we have rolled out our training to all the councils this year, next year, we will start private criminal prosecutions against them if they continue to act illegally against our members.

The second issue we have within the industry in 2019 is the rising crime rate in metal theft and lack of policing. It is not our lawfully registered and licensed members that are the criminals. It is criminals that steal the lead from roofs and criminals that steal from our yards that are on the rise. We know they are gangs that have been operating on the south coast and now working their way north. What we find so irritating is that we have the CCTV of these gangs, we have their vehicle registrations, and we have photos of their faces. Our Association has been gathering the evidence because the police either don’t or do nothing with it, and at the same time, we have been recording church thefts, which seem to mirror the activities of the gangs that rob our yards. If the police want to catch these gangs that rob from churches, take more notice of the metal theft coming from our businesses, and at the same time, we have been recording church thefts, which seem to mirror the activities of the gangs that rob our yards. If the police want to catch these gangs that rob from churches, take more notice of the metal theft coming from our businesses.

The third issue is Brexit, as with many businesses we wait and see what will happen to our exporting of metal, and watch the prices drop as the threat gets nearer.

Lastly, we as an association still fight the badly drafted Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which has so many loopholes, and which our members can be caught in a trap of doomed if they do, and doomed if they don’t. With our legal teams working on it day and night we now see we have made some progress towards getting the law changed. Personally, I’d like to see it scrapped and a Metal Theft Act written. We are the only industry that has a law named after us, that is to stop metal theft, which is a bit like inventing the Surgeons Act to stop knife crime. We are not the criminals; we all have clean criminal record checks. It is criminals that steal metal, not us. I am incensed that other Associations talk about the criminal element or the media refer to an unlicensed scrap dealer – no, if you are unlicensed, you are a criminal.

Q3: In your opinion, has the ban on cash improved the scrap metal industry?

It has changed the industry, and it slowed down the illegal trade. In 2012 the criminals were washing money through the industry like they do with restaurants or other businesses. With the cash ban they moved on to other enterprises, so yes it moved a lot of the criminals away. Now, of course, they have changed tactics and using the loopholes that the Act of Parliament has created, so they can still legally use cash. We are back at square one.

Q4: The word that never goes away; Brexit. In your opinion is Brexit going to affect the industry in any substantial way.

Brexit will change everything, not just our industry if it happens. If we are suddenly cut off from Europe with queues getting our metal out of the country or tariffs, the market price will drop dramatically. There is no point scrapping a car if there is no end buyer and because there isn’t a great manufacturing industry in the UK the smaller businesses and collectors will take the full brunt of any price drop in the markets, they still have to pay their rent, their permits, their insurance, their licensing whether the cost of iron is £100 a tonne or £5 a tonne. On a plus note, there is a whole industry of metal globally that in the long term would jump at cheap metal from the UK if it did drop. In short no one knows, I suspect that it will be hard for a year and then it will level back out again. It’s the collectors that will suffer the most – but hey, what do I know.

Q5: Not so long ago, it seemed like only people in specific industries knew the value in scrap. Now the man on the street seems to be aware that scrap metal has a value. Has this wider spread of knowledge been good for the scrap dealers in your organisation?

Yes of course, technically we don’t scrap metal, we recycle. No one throws away metal into a land fill, it is recycled and so yes, the more people that know that metal equals money, then it is good for the environment, good for business and good for our members.

Q6: Most people know of Copper, Steel, Aluminium and lead being of value. What are some of the other less known metals that people at home could start collecting and take to their scrap dealers?

All metal has worth. Brass is often found on old plumbing fixtures. Cars have a huge amount of different metals in them. Light iron body shells, aluminium wheels, and even the exhaust have gold and other precious metals, and car batteries are worth money too. Schools are currently collecting food cans which can bring a pretty penny into the school funds, and is an excellent educational tool to use.

Q7: People who have never been to a scrap dealer may be a bit intimidated at the thought of walking in. Is there any advice you could give to a member of the public that may have some scrap to sell?

Scrap yards are not what you imagine them to be. Gone are the aggressive barking chained up dogs and men looking scary. More likely or not, you will find a customer reception and usually women in the office that will help you with your paperwork. They by law can not allow children on site, even a baby in a car seat, so don’t be offended if you get turned away. It’s the law. Every scrap dealer I know knows his business. If you are looking for a car part, you’ll get better-informed info from a Motor salvage operator than a mechanic who will charge you. As long as you have an ID and treat them with respect, you’ll get excellent customer care.

Q8: Is the collapse of British Steel this year a sign that the British steel industry which is closely linked to the British scrap metal going through a downward trend?

Nope. Where there’s muck, there’s brass. British Steel went bust because it had no manufacturing customers left in the UK. It had nothing to do with the supply of metal from our end.

Q9: What changes would you like to see either domestically or globally that could give the industry a turn for the better?

Domestically, I would like to scrap the licensing from local authorities. I’d like there to be a National Metal Agency that would licence the industry; it would be responsible for policing, for reporting metal theft, and for enforcement all under one umbrella. It seems criminal to me that we are forced to gather so much data by law, and yet nothing is done with it. The National Metal Agency would take the data and check it against metal thefts reported, and it would then prosecute offenders without even leaving the office. Get with the programme, use computers technology. The Scrap Metal Dealers Association is in talks with different agencies to make this a real possibility.

Q10: What is happening at the SMDA as we approach the end of 2019?

Have you got anything worth a mention that you are working on for next year? Yes, this year is all about education, trying to get all the agencies to sing from the same hymn sheet, next year anyone acting unlawfully against our members we will be enforcing the law against them in private criminal prosecutions. We will continue to run our training programme for our members in writing their own Fire Prevention Plan for EA compliance, and we will continue to push for the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 to be redrafted or get rid of it and introduce a law that works. We continue to work with Historical England and our WAMITAB training provider, and continue to operate our 24/7 hotline for members that find themselves with a question or issue.



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