Recycling Group Plans Survey on Theft of Metals From Containers

By Agnieszka Troszkiewicz | December 4, 2013

The Bureau of International Recycling plans to carry out a survey of its member companies and national associations to determine the extent of scrap-metal theft from shipping containers.

Organized crime that involves stealing scrap from containers or seizing whole containers is rising, particularly in Asia, said Robert Voss, chairman of the International Trade Council at the Brussels-based bureau. The planned survey follows another carried out about two years ago, he said.

Stealing from containers is “a high-profile and unwanted side effect” of higher metals prices, the bureau said in its annual report for 2012. An index of the six main industrial metals traded on the London Metal Exchange, including copper and lead, is still up more than twofold from the end of 2000, even after sliding 34 percent from the record high in May 2007.

“Scrap is an easy target for crime,” Voss, who also is managing director of Voss International Ltd., a Rickmansworth, England-based scrap trader, said by e-mail. “One, our materials are generally unidentifiable. Two, it’s a readily salable product around the world. And three, it always has a market price because of the LME.”

The scrap industry aims to counter theft with steps including microchipping and double-sealing containers or even putting Global Positioning System units in them, Voss said. Last year the industry group joined the International Maritime Bureau, part of the anti-crime unit of the International Chamber of Commerce, the report showed.

The recycling industry handles more than 600 million metric tons of raw materials annually, according to the industry group. It represents more than 850 members from Hamburg-based Aurubis AG, the world’s second-biggest producer of refined copper, to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. in Washington.

(Editors: Dan Weeks, Sharon Lindores)

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