July 25, 2012
British Columbia's new scrap metal recycling law now in effect
On July 23, the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act came into force, putting those who buy and sell scrap metal in B.C. under greater scrutiny.
The act, passed last November, came about because of soaring incidents of metal theft in places such as utility company work yards and new home sites.
In 2011 alone, metal thieves targeted Telus 380 times, stealing about $19 million worth of metal. Also last year, the city of Surrey spent $2.8 million to repair and replace streetlight wiring.
Within B.C.’s construction industry, the theft of metals is significant said the president and CEO of the B.C. Construction Association.
“It’s not just copper wiring out of the walls. There’s many instances of new products being stolen like copper tubing and brass fittings,” said Manley McLachlan.
“The fact that the government has addressed this through legislation is a very positive first step.”
Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, said metal theft is a serious issue. He often hears members complain about theft from jobsites.
“As much as I dislike government rules and regulations and filling out paperwork, something had to be done,” Hochstein said.
Under the act, B.C. metal dealers and recyclers, who purchase regulated metal, must register with the province. Currently, there are about 65 such businesses in B.C.
Regulated metals are those mostly made of non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, copper, brass, bronze, lead, magnesium, nickel and zinc.
People who sell regulated metal can only do so if they provide their driver’s licence or B.C. Identification Card to the dealer or recycler.
The seller must be able explain where they got the metal.
Dealers and recyclers must also record information about the seller and the description of the regulated metal.
Buyers must provide a summary report of their purchase to police on the same day of the sale.
If the dealer’s or recycler’s report matches a description of reported stolen property, police must get a court order to view dealer or recycler purchase information.
A cash limit of $50 exists when purchasing regulated metal from a person.
Any amount more than $50 must be paid by cheque.
Patrick Waunch said the new act is a great idea.
As the owner of Kelowna-based Rambow Mechanical and second term chair of the BCCA, Waunch has firsthand experience with metal theft.
About four years ago, a trailer full of Rambow’s heat exchangers was stolen and never recovered, representing more than a $10,000 loss, he recalled.
Other items, such as copper fittings, copper piping and air conditioners have also disappeared from worksites.
“It kind of goes on and on. The thieves get pretty bold,” said Waunch, whose 27-year-old company operates throughout B.C. and outside the province.
He has been forced to use securely locked steel containers and tractor trailers to safeguard goods.
The heavyweight security adds from three to five per cent to a tender.
“It’s a big deal,” he said.
Because stolen goods are often melted down, tracking and identifying them is difficult, he noted.
Worksite safety can also be compromised after a metal theft.
“When you go into a site, you assume it’s the way you left it,” McLachlan said. “If there are live wires, that’s a great concern.”
To enforce the act, seven inspectors, who also police the province’s security industry (businesses such as locksmiths and armoured vehicles), will be inspecting metal dealer or recycling sites throughout B.C.
Even though the seven inspectors have more duties, new inspectors will not be hired, said Stephen Hitchcock, manager of compliance and enforcement for the Security Programs Division.
“It’s a balance between what resources we have and what we put out there,” he said from Victoria. “We can’t have carte blanche resources.”
Hochstein recognizes that the new act won’t be a cure-all.
“Rules are for honest people,” he said. “While this will make it more complicated for the criminals, I don’t think it will stop them.”
McLachlan believes that when a scrap dealer is offered brand new goods for sale, they’ll act ethically and report the seller.
“I”m a firm believer in accountability,” he said.
Waunch also considers the new act, a deterrent.
“But what it comes down to, is you have to catch them in the act,” he said.
Fines for convicted individuals top out at $10,000, while businesses can be fined a maximum of $100,000. Some B.C. communities already hit hard by metal theft, such as Surrey and Maple Ridge, have municipal bylaws that address the sale of regulated metal.
The provincial Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act will now take precedence.
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