Recycling is not only good for the environment, but is profitable when certain metals are involved, such as copper. The profitability factor can lead to thefts of high-value metals solely for the purpose of selling it to scrap metal processors or recyclers. To address this situation, many states and local municipalities have enacted laws that require sellers of scrap metal to be identified. If you operate a scrap metal processing or recycling business, you need to know what type of license, permit or other identification is required of persons or businesses selling scrap metal to you.

Recycling Scrap Metal Basics

Scrap metal processors and recyclers deal with a variety of customers selling metals such as copper, aluminum, brass and steel. A significant portion of sellers are companies and individual contractors involved in construction trades who sell scrap metal as part of their business practices, but many sellers are homeowners and persons who sell scrap metal for recycling or profit purposes unrelated to any established business practice. In 2011, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported on the nationwide theft problem of metals, particularly copper, due to the increasing value of the metals to scrap metal dealers. The report identified legislative proposals and enactments in various states to reduce such thefts by regulating scrap metal sales in their state.

Seller Identification Regulations

Many states regulate scrap metal sales by requiring scrap metal processors, recyclers and other dealers to identify the seller. The type of identifying information required and the record that must be made for a lawful sale of scrap metal can be significant. For example, in Arizona a scrap metal dealer involved in a sale over $25 must request the seller's government-issued I.D. and make a record of the information, as well as recording the license plate of the vehicle used by the seller to deliver the metal. The dealer also must photograph, video record or digitally record the seller, and obtain the seller’s right index fingerprint. Some states prohibit the general public from selling certain items to scrap metal dealers. For example, Alabama law prohibits the sale of a variety of items, including telephone and electric cable, manhole covers, metal beer kegs, and loose catalytic converters.

Seller Permit Regulations

Some state laws also require scrap metal dealers who accept metal from members of the general public to only accept it from those who have a valid permit. For example, Virginia and Georgia law require individuals selling metal who do not have a place of business to obtain a permit from the local sheriff or chief of police as a condition of selling metal to a scrap metal dealer. The permit is typically valid for a year or two. The seller must be in possession of the permit whenever acquiring, transporting and selling the scrap metals.

Other Considerations

In an ongoing effort to combat theft of materials to sell as scrap metal, many law enforcement jurisdictions require scrap metal processors, recyclers and other dealers to report data collected on scrap metal sales. The data must be sent to the local law enforcement agency on a periodic basis. For example, scrap metal dealers in San Diego County, California, must report scrap metal sale data to the San Diego County Sheriff on a monthly basis.