Georgia bills tighten screws on scrap sales

Georgia bills tighten screws on scrap sales

March 9th, 2012 by Joy Lukachick Smith in News

Copper coils and tubes which reside in electrical appliances like air conditioners are valuable at scrap metal resale shops. Those who bring in scrap copper and collect around $3 a pound. Staff File Photo


Some of the requirements in the bills are:

• Scrap metal dealers can no longer use cash to purchase metal.

• A photograph or video of the regulated metal scrap must be on file.

• Any type of metal coil can be purchased only from a licensed contractor or person with documented evidence that they purchased the coil.

• Metal recyclers will be required to give their purchase records to the local sheriff's office for an electronic database that law enforcement can access.

Source: House Bill 872 and Senate Bill 321

Local police in Georgia say controversial legislation that would revamp regulations on how scrap metal parts can be sold and recycled could help curb the high volume of metal thefts across the state.

But workers in the scrap metal industry worry the two bills could target the businesses instead of the metal thieves.

Scrap metal theft is a costly and growing problem statewide, officials say. Popular targets include copper wires from heating and cooling units and refrigerators, railroad equipment and telephone wiring.

Officials in Ringgold, Ga., have reported several manhole covers swiped off the streets in recent weeks.

"Losses for metal thefts have been increasing each year," said Rep. Jason Shaw, R-Lakeland, sponsor of the House bill. "We're trying to make [the bill] all-inclusive to make sure we can regulate those who are flying under the radar."

Two similar bills - House Bill 872 and Senate Bill 321 - were passed out of their respective chambers last week and are now slated for debated by committees in the other chamber. Shaw said the bills, which have some key differences, will likely be combined into one comprehensive bill for both chambers to consider.

Police say they like the accountability of requiring buyers to photograph their scrap metal purchases and to have a database to pinpoint the location of a reported stolen piece of copper or other metal.

"It's important to get the law changed," said Walker County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Rogers. "It's almost impossible to figure out where [thieves] are getting [the metal] from."

In Walker County alone, nearly half of the reported thefts concern scrap metal, Rogers said, and in the last six months, 260 cases have been reported.

But recycling yard owners fear the electronic database could be costly and time-intensive for their employees to maintain and puts the brunt of the work onto their backs.

"It seems like they're trying to control theft by regulating us," said Wayne Evans, co-owner of AMR Waste Systems in Rome, Ga. "We're not the ones out there stealing it."

After long debates, the scrap recycling industry has agreed to support the House version of the bill, but still strongly opposes the Senate bill for its longer list of regulations that the industry rejects, said Bob Schmiedt, spokesman for the Georgia Recyclers Association.

"[The Senate bill] will result in the loss of a lot of jobs," Schmiedt said.

One of the compromises reached earlier this week was to take out a provision in the House bill that would require recycling businesses to mail checks to metal-sellers, Schmiedt said. The industry will agree to use only checks instead of cash if the law passes as a compromise, he said.

"Nobody wants to see more regulations in a business," he said. "[But] we realize there's a problem out there and we stepped up to the plate."