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Metal Theft Epidemic Costs UK Economy Half a Billion Pounds Annually

Metal theft is on the rise in the United Kingdom, with a new report revealing that it is now a costly epidemic, draining the economy of half a billion pounds each year. According to the findings by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Metal, Stone, and Heritage Crime, this surge is primarily orchestrated by up to sixty Organised Crime Groups responsible for the majority of metal theft crimes.


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Key Statistics from the Report:

  • Metal theft costs the UK economy half a billion pounds annually and £4.3 billion since 2013.
  • Up to 60 Organised Crime Groups are actively engaged in metal theft.
  • Catalytic converter thefts increased by 170% from 2013 to 2023.
  • Lead theft rose by 8%, with 6,446 incidents recorded in the same period.
  • In 2022 alone, an organisation suffered 334 cable theft incidents, resulting in £5.3 million in losses.
  • Commuters faced 72,000 minutes (50 days) of delays in 2022 due to stolen railway signalling and overhead cables.
  • There were just 229 prosecutions between 2018 and 2022 for scrap metal dealer offences.

The Impact on Infrastructure and Society:

Metal theft is not limited to churches but has become pervasive, affecting crucial infrastructure such as telecommunications and power networks. Essential services, like hospitals, have experienced disruptions, with incidents causing significant financial losses and jeopardising patient safety.

Who is Behind the Surge?

The report identifies two main types of criminals involved: opportunistic individuals enticed by the economic rewards of stolen metals and organised crime groups utilising sophisticated methods to execute their illicit activities. The research suggests that up to sixty organised crime groups are actively involved, contributing to the escalating metal theft problem.

Challenges and Recommendations:

The report highlights challenges in addressing metal theft, including a lack of prioritisation in central and local government and insufficient enforcement of existing regulations. To combat the rising trend, the APPG proposes ten recommendations, including the establishment of a Home Office-led working group, a review of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, and the inclusion of a specific metal theft offence code in police data reporting.

Commenting on the report, Andrew Selous, MP and Chair of the APPG, emphasises the urgency of addressing this issue, stating, “The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Metal Stone and Heritage Crime hope this report will act as the catalyst needed to ensure that we win the fight against metal theft.” The report calls for a collective effort involving government bodies, law enforcement, and stakeholders to tackle this growing threat to the UK’s economy and daily life.

Read the full report here.


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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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