Scrap and metal recycling


The greater part of the scrap and metal recycling industry processes ferrous and non ferrous metal scrap into vital secondary raw material for the smelting of new metals.

The scrap and metal recycling industry has consistently had a poor fatal accident rate for several years. 

The main risks include:

The main Trade Associations dealing with this industry include the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) and the Motor Vehicle Dismantlers Association

End of Life Vehicles (ELV)

The introduction of the End of Life Vehicle Regulations has resulted in a significant change to the make up of the scrap industry as every vehicle scrapped now has to be de-polluted and waste materials accounted for.

For more information see Motor vehicle dismantling.

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

This is a rapidly growing and highly specialised part of the metals recycling industry. Large household appliances (eg ovens, fridges, washing machines) make up over 40% of WEEE but there are large volumes of other equipment such as IT equipment (mainly computers), televisions (cathode ray tube and flat screen), small household appliances (eg kettles and hair dryers), electrical tools, digital watches, electronic toys and medical devices.

Such items contain a wide variety of materials eg an average TV contains 6% metal and 50% glass, whereas a cooker is 89% metal and only 6% glass. Other materials found include plastics, ceramics and precious metals.  

For more information see Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment recycling.

Disposal of aerosols

Each year the UK uses around 600 million aerosols, which is equivalent to about ten cans per person. With approximately 65 per cent of aerosols made from tin-plated steel, and the rest from high-grade aluminium and this represents almost 30,000 tonnes of reclaimable metal that can be recycled each year.

Householders should only put empty used aerosols in can banks or kerbside collections. They should not be segregated or concentrated into batches as the best safest way for consumers to recycle aerosol cans is to mix in with other metal waste – this serves to  'dilute' the proportion of aerosols in the total mix. Householders should not pierce or squash aerosol cans before disposal.

Many local authorities are successfully including collection of aerosols in their kerbside or mixed waste collection schemes.

For mixed waste processed at a Material Recycling Facility (MRF), as far as is possible, only aerosols derived from the domestic waste stream should be handled by the MRF. At the MRF aerosols can be baled, flattened or shredded but this must only be done where appropriate precautions are in place

The British Aerosol Manufacturers Association (BAMA) provides guidance on the collection and processing of "empty" or "near empty" cans by local authorities when processed through MRFs.

When disposing of full or partly full aerosol canisters in bulk then they need to be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of safely.  It is also recommended that aerosols from the commercial waste stream be directed to specialist recycling facilities

Further guidance on the safe disposal of aerosols can be found in the following sources:

Radioactive contamination in scrap in metal recycling

Radioactive contamination in scrap in metal recycling

Scrap Metal Dealer Licence Applications

Under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 and related Regulations local authorities (councils) are responsible for determining the suitability of applicants and issuing of scrap metal dealers licences.

Information on health and safety enforcement action, both prosecutions and enforcement notices is publically available on HSE's Register of prosecutions and notices should councils wish to consider health and safety offences as part of the application.

HSE will not routinely respond to requests from councils about applicants.

Other HSE guidance and advice

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Updated 2022-06-28