6 May 2021 by Steve Eminton

Agency in crackdown over ‘illegal metals recyclers’

With cases of catalytic converter thefts rising across the UK, the latest stage in crackdown on illegal activity in the metals recycling sector has seen a focus on sites in Kent and South London. And, national action (see below) has resulted in the arrest of 50 people.

Kent and South London

Last week Environment Agency officers working with the British Transport Police (BTP), Kent Police, the Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) and Openreach were involved in visits to six sites in Croydon and Dover.

The Agency explained that the visits were part of “a multi-agency week of action targeting metal and vehicle recycling businesses.”

One site was found to be illegal where the Agency said its now carrying out enforcement action to improve compliance with regulations. It reports that a number of vehicles stopped during the week were found to have no waste carrier’s licence or duty of care paperwork.

A site inspection in Dover

In a statement, the Agency said: “The intelligence-led visits were part of a wider BTP operation targeting the theft of cabling and vehicle catalytic converters, which has been rising across the south east this year.

“BTP officers searched sites for stolen metal, in particular catalytic converters that are stolen for the precious metals they contain. A surge in the value of these metals has prompted a significant increase in thefts. A number of stolen vehicles were also recovered during the week. They also checked waste companies’ financial records to ensure they adhered to the 2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act.”


Matt Higginson, environment manager for the Environment Agency, said: “This should serve as a warning to those who would flout the law that we and our partners are rooting out waste crime and we won’t hesitate to take action.

“Unscrupulous scrap metal sites are accepting stolen catalytic converters and cabling, further fuelling their theft across the south east.

“Joint investigations and enforcement will continue and if convicted, those responsible could face extensive fines and even prison sentences.”

Phil Davies, Joint Unit for Waste Crime manager, said: “This week of action is another example of how the JUWC together with other partners and agencies are targeting criminals who exploit the waste industry and harm the environment. Utilising the skills and expertise across agencies we will continue to identify further opportunities to impact upon waste crime.”

National action

The British Transport Police has reported on national action where police forces “across the nation have recovered over a thousand stolen catalytic converters and arrested more than 50 people as part of a joint operation to tackle catalytic converter theft”.

Part of the national inspection

In April, British Transport Police (BTP) coordinated the operation, codenamed Goldiron, which saw police forces join experts from the Joint Unit for Waste Crime), led by the Environment Agency, Smartwater Group, and motor industry, to carry out synchronised enforcement action, intelligence-led site visits, forensic marking and educational events.

The BTP said that organised crime networks are involved because of the surge in value of metals from catalytic converters.. These metals have surged in value recently, leading to organised crime networks to commit more offences.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Metal Crime, BTP Assistant Chief Constable Charlie Doyle, said:

“The positive results from this week are testament to why it’s vital we join forces to share information and specialist knowledge to disrupt those operating in this area of crime.

“By taking a multi-agency approach, we are maximising our ability to identify those who are involved in catalytic converter theft, making it harder for them to sell stolen metal and gain from their criminal activities.”

Discussion of convertor thefts last month

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Vehicle Crime, Cheshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Simms, said:

“We recognise the impact catalytic converter theft has on victims. A national conference took place in November last year to create a cross-agency plan focussed on prevention and detection and this is the second week of action that has taken place since.

“Policing and law enforcement agencies will continue to focus on catalytic converter theft and ensure that this low risk/ high-reward crime is relentlessly targeted, and offenders are brought to justice. The results from this week are impressive.”

Reporting waste crime and catalytic converter theft

The Environment Agency noted that anyone who suspects illegal waste activity can report it to its 24-hour hotline 0800 80 70 60, or anonymously contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Carriers registration can be checked at waste carriers registration.

The police said that reports of catalytic converter theft should be made as soon as possible to increase the chances of detection. “People are encouraged to report any suspicious activity to the police by calling 101, or 999 if an offence is in progress.


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