Essential information for end of life vehicle dismantling, depollution and recycling

Adam Hewitt

The impact of the cash ban

scrap metalIn a recent blog, the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) considers the impact the cash ban and how the associated Acts can be better enforced.  

The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 (SMDA) and the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 (AWLA) made it illegal for metal recyclers to pay cash for scrap metal. Sellers can only be paid by bank transfer, cheque or, additionally in England and Wales, by a prepaid cash card. Both Acts also require operators to take copies of identification documents such as a photo driving licence. 

The aim of the Acts are to tackle metal theft by making it much harder for thieves to dispose of stolen metal anonymously.  

This represented a significant change for the industry and initially presented many challenges. However, there were some positive outcomes. Site safety increased because large amounts of cash were no longer kept on site. This led to a reduction in costs that were previously paid out for security and insurance.  

Some operators decided to break the law and continued to pay cash, despite being fully licensed and environmentally compliant. Some started to pay cash again after seeing others get away with it. And then there are those cash payers who always operated illegally as they are neither licensed nor environmentally compliant and who might well be flying under the radar. 

The BMRA are contacted about cash-paying operators frequently. Legitimate yards are losing thousands of pounds worth of business to yards that pay cash. And although not stated formally in the Acts, those who receive cash for their scrap metal can also be prosecuted and be subject to a potentially unlimited fine as they are deemed to be aiding and abetting a criminal act. 

Yards that pay cash for scrap metal are of particular interest to those with stolen metal because identity checks are likely to be limited, or more likely, non-existent. Metal that is attractive to thieves typically includes church roof lead, copper cabling such as signalling cable and other high-value metals such as aluminium.

As an Association, the BMRA support the Acts, but remain concerned about the lack of enforcement caused in turn by a severe lack of funding. The answer may be a combination of enforcement and to also starve the illegally operating sites of material. 

Government Agencies such as DVLA and HMRC could assist with this. A document was recently delivered by the BMRA to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), highlighting where they would like to see more investment in the enforcement of the SMDA and AWLA. Including the following: 

  • More funding for feet on the street and associated administration to visit and shut down illegally operating yards. 
  • Introducing and enforcing declarations and other evidence as part of a tax return, to ensure manufacturing/service/demolition industries sell their scrap to the legitimate recycling industry. 
  • Instigating communication’s programmes to make the public and industry aware of laws around cash payments for scrap. 
  • Ensuring the law around the disposal of end-of-life vehicles (ELV) and scrap metal is clearly stated in their issued documentation. 
  • Strengthening DLVA rules by ensuring proof that ELV disposal has been done within the law via a traceable transaction, thus pushing scrap cars towards the legitimate industry. 

The above actions could help make scrap producers, be they an engineering works or an individual scraping a car, more aware of the law and to ensure their scrap metal or car is processed within the legitimate supply chain. 

The social impact of paying cash due to its association with metal theft can affect communities, think church roof lead. For the sector, the impact economically can hamper the move towards a full circular economy. The sector needs investment, which is simply not there if the industry is not able to compete on a level playing field. 


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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.