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BIR issues letter in response to scrap export ban proposed by South Africa

  • 08 September 2022

In August 2022, the Republic of South Africa (RSA) considered new policy measures, including a ban on the export of scrap metals to eliminate metal theft from public infrastructure. In support of its members in South Africa, including Metals Recyclers Association (MRA), the BIR Secretariat has submitted an official letter to the South African Government.

In this letter, BIR supports the improvement of regulatory enforcement and actions to stop theft of metals from public infrastructure, however the BIR secretariat, on behalf of its membership, expresses strong concerns about the policy linkage of metal theft with metal trade. BIR stresses that restricting  the trade of ferrous and nonferrous metals does not address the root cause of the theft problem. Instead, it would cause substantial harm to an essential economic sector that directly contributes to a stronger, more sustainable and circular economy. Export restrictions are an ineffective policy response to prevent metal theft from public infrastructure.

BIR recommends considering other mechanisms to prevent theft and ensure the protection of public infrastructure, such as:

  • Supporting legitimate recycling businesses by closing illegal operations, unregulated scrap yards and unregulated metalworks and foundries.
  • Protecting public infrastructure by owners marking metals; by installing monitors of power, or of data or other parameters such as the voltage drop on cables to indicate a theft is taking place; by joining forces with police and industry security patrols to catch criminals in the act.
  • Ensuring the traceability of scrap metal from industry and consumers that enter legitimate recycling enterprises.
  • Introducing stronger penalties for the destruction and theft of infrastructure.

BIR stands ready to engage with the Government of South Africa or any other national authority in the efforts to limit metal theft, without resorting to a ban on scrap exports.

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