Selling scrap metal got a little tougher since a new law went into effect on July 1, with some items virtually impossible to sell except for those working in certain professions.
Examples of difficult-to-unload items include air-conditioner coils, central air units, burned copper wire and metal items associated with burials such as metal grave markers.
For the most part, selling those items to a metal dealer requires that the seller work in professions that require working with them such as contractors for air-conditioner coils or funeral directors or cemetery owners for burial materials.
“I think this will help,” Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office investigator Shannon Hart said of the legislation. “For ACs, only a person with a license can sell it now. That’s going to be a big help. That and all the items turned in will be photographed.”
Recyclers can still accept coils from automobile and window air conditioners, provided the latter are sold with the whole unit.
Certain groups are exempted, including manufacturers, industrial and commercial vendors, non-profit groups, law enforcement officers, bankruptcy trustees, executors, public officials acting under legal process or authority and those selling items under a court order.
The law does not cover batteries, aluminum or other beverage containers.
Another positive Hart sees in the law is that scrap metal purchasers can no longer pay with cash.
The law only allows recyclers to pay by check, electronic transfer to a bank account or a voucher, which the seller can redeem at the business after three days.
Metal purchasers are required to record transactions, including the date and description, as well as take photos of the metal, seller and driver (if different), and to record vehicle information, purchase price and check identities.
Recyclers are required to sign a statement attesting that they are the legal owner of property and provide a photo identification.
Metal recyclers also must pay a $200 annual registration fee to the sheriff’s office. The law also allows law enforcement agencies to inspect the facilities and paperwork of the three dealers located in Colquitt County, Hart said.
Law enforcement officers also can order dealers to hold any items they suspect are stolen for up to 15 days, or as many as 45 days if an extension is filed.
When the law first went into effect, business at Recycle King dropped noticeably, but has since picked up, owner David Sumner said.
“I think some of them weren’t sure what the law was,” he said. “Business slowed down. It seems to have come back a little.”
Sumner said his business has helped law enforcement make cases in instances where someone tried to sell stolen recyclables.
“We had one several months ago,” he said. “A (man) said he had some batteries stolen. Somebody brought them and we called him on it.”
One thing Sumner thinks could be more of a deterrent is stiffer penalties for people caught stealing metal.
“The main thing is, it’s supposed to slow down on the stealing,” he said of the law. “The thing is, the court doesn’t do anything with them. It’s not really the law enforcement, it’s the court system.”