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Waste and Recycling, Legality, Health and Safety

16 Nov 2017


We were caught by an interesting article on the Independent website from October 1994, portraying the demise of the rag-and-bone men. The article catches up with four “survivors” of the trade in London. Back in in 1994 the article told of the changes in regulation from Europe requiring stricter regulation on waste and that rag-and-bone men should comply with the then London Waste Regulation Authority rules (the London Waste Regulation Authority ran from 1986 – 1996) and get or give a receipt on every transaction of metal. This required 5 copies and the writing was really on the wall for this traditional family based industry.

Times change and the world of waste moves on, despite being an industry what nobody wants or needs but has to deal with and comes at a cost. What was once perceived to be standard practice and acceptable from the 1940’s, through the 60’s, 70’s and into the 90’s and beyond is now defunct. This is a good thing as standards of environmental impact and health and safety are higher. Yet there are still companies and individuals who flaunt the law to cut corners and make money out of scrap. Some would say that they are following on in the ethos of the old rag-and-bone men, who were simply making their way in the world and providing for their families by doing away with our unwanted scrap.

Arguably the addition of better regulation, taxation and licensing has improved the quality of the waste industry. Scrap metal was often deemed as a way for some more scrupulous individuals to supplement their income with scrap obtained through theft. An example of this is the spate of drain and manhole cover thefts throughout the UK over the past 10 years, this also joined a spate of waste stripping from the nations railway lines. The cost of which is often not appreciated and what seems to be a faceless crime is indeed a direct cost to the UK taxpayer. Not to mention the threat of injury from exposed drains and delays through transport disruption.

What the industry is doing about theft

Metal theft has prompted a response from the industry and particularly the BMRA (British Metals Recycling Association) to feature Metal Theft news ( Which is regularly updated to feature information on notable scrap metal thefts across the UK. Recently they have reported:

Looking through the reports from this year it is clear that despite legislation there are still markets for illegally obtained waste metal. These reports are useful for scrap metal merchants to identify the source of illegal or reported thefts so they do not find themselves handling stolen goods.

Health and safety, Waste and Recycling Industry

Tragic figures reported in this months Skip & Waste Hire Magazine from the HSE included 39 fatalities and 11 members of the public were killed because of activity in the waste and recycling sector. Not to mention the number of Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Regulation and licensing have helped focus the attention on quality of service and safety in the waste and recycling industry and clearly there is more to be done. That said the HSE offers free advice to operators on their website (

For the most part if you are simply looking for a domestic skip (or commercial RORO) with guaranteed service anywhere in the UK, then we have coverage in your locality. All our operators are fully licensed. We are proud to work with the finest skip, waste and recycling companies in the country. This takes the selection process out of your hands, so you know that your waste (be it domestic or commercial) is being handled in the most professional manner possible. For a free no obligation quote to cover your waste disposal needs. Contact our team on 0844 686 9342 or (mobile friendly) 0330 111 0055 – Lines are open Monday to Friday and you get to speak to one of our friendly advisers who can help you.

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