Recycling Product News
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August 7, 2012 - by Traci Shaw, CARI
For as long as metal has had value, someone has been willing to steal it. The recycling industry, which suffers more loss to metal theft than any other, has been fighting theft for years. However to many people outside of the industry, metal theft seems like a new problem brought on by rising commodity prices. A growing number of reports of metal theft has brought the issue to the attention of politicians and lawmakers, and they have begun to take action. Unfortunately, this action is often taken without any real understanding of the issue, let alone the industry their laws and regulations affect most.
Recently, British Columbia and Nova Scotia enacted legislation to combat metal theft. As with most other metal theft bylaws and legislations, these laws are focussed on regulating scrap dealers at a local or regional level. CARI worked with both these provincial governments to lessen the impact of the laws on recyclers. We expressed concern that the legislations targeted recyclers instead of the criminals and that so-called surveillance bylaws require scrap dealers to collect personal information from sellers that we believe contradicts provincial and federal privacy laws. What’s more, this type of legislation seldom results in convictions of metal thieves because recyclers and police cannot prove the person attempting to sell stolen material is the one who stole it. If the thieves are prosecuted, their punishment is minimal.
CARI has consistently told lawmakers that regulating scrap dealers will not have an impact on metal theft. Theft rates are an effect of the dynamics of economic value. Fluctuating commodity prices might influence the rate of thefts, but only temporarily. Increased demand for metals from countries like China and India means the market doesn’t stop at our borders, and neither do the thieves who want to sell their material. Metal theft cannot be solved regionally.
This is not to say law enforcement and governments shouldn’t be trying to fight metal theft; they simply need to take a different approach. Many recyclers are already requesting identification from peddlers and contacting police when they receive suspicious material. However, enforcing tag-and-hold laws, barring cash sales, and forcing buyers to become licensed will not deter thieves or illegitimate dealers. Criminals will continue to conduct their business underground or move the material across borders and overseas. Rather than regulating recyclers, CARI believes metal theft should instead be fought through protection of material, cross-industry and cross-border cooperation, and proper punishment of criminals.
Deterring theft should be the first priority of property owners and utility providers. Protecting property is far more cost effective than repairing damage or replacing stolen material. Securing material and installing video surveillance and alarm systems are obvious solutions, but marking material can also be a useful deterrent. One load of copper wire looks much like the next, but material that has distinctive marks may be more easily identified as stolen and is therefore less attractive to thieves.
Protecting material won’t stop theft completely, which is why the sectors most affected by theft need to work together. Police, property owners, and scrap dealers must establish an easy means of communicating theft reports and suspicious material to one another.
Several years ago CARI established an industry-based bulletin alert system to fight metal theft. With the assistance and support of ISRI, this system eventually evolved into the website www.ScrapTheftAlert.com. The site covers Canada and the U.S. and encourages cooperation between recyclers and law enforcement officers in tracking stolen material. Like thieves, the alerts posted on this site cross regions, thereby increasing the possibility of recovering material and identifying thieves.
Finally, lawmakers need to recognize that the cost of metal theft is often more than its scrap value. Manhole covers removed from city streets create safety hazards. Copper wire stolen from hydro and telecommunications utilities causes service disruptions, and could result in someone’s death. Penalties to thieves should take into account not just replacement costs of material, but also the resulting safety and environmental implications. Those who endanger lives should face criminal charges.
Metal theft is an issue that demands action. It’s time to shift the focus away from scrap metal dealers and onto the thieves themselves.
To learn more about this company:
682 Monarch Ave. Unit 1, Ajax, ON, CA, L1S 4S2
- Phone: 905 426-9313
- Fax: 905 426-9314
- Website: www.cari-acir.org
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