Scrap metals include ferrous and non-ferrous metals from a range of sources including food and drinks packaging, construction waste, end-of-life vehicles and waste electrical appliances. Recycling businesses collect and store metals, and transport them to foundries where they are melted and cast for use in new products.

You must follow certain regulations for recycling some specific metals.

Battery recycling for recycling businesses

Waste electrical and electronic equipment

End-of-life vehicles

You must have an authorisation, such as a licence, permit or consent, from your environmental regulator before you discharge any sewage, effluent or contaminated run-off to the water environment. You must comply with any conditions in your authorisation.

In Scotland, if you discharge anything to the water environment you may require an authorisation from SEPA - See SEPA: Water - Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR). You must comply with the conditions of your authorisation

If your business discharges trade effluent to a public sewer, you must have a valid trade effluent consent from your water and sewerage company.

Preventing water pollution

Contact your environmental regulator

Before you reuse, recover, recycle or dispose of waste meta containers, you must check whether their contents are classified as hazardous/special waste. Read the label on the container or the relevant Safety Data Sheet to help you do this.

If the contents are classified as hazardous, then you must treat the entire container as hazardous/special waste.

Hazardous / special waste

What you must do

Authorisations to operate

Some metal recycling sites may require a pollution prevention and control permit for example if you recycle scrap metal cables by removing plastic or rubber using heat.

Does your recycling and reprocessing business need a permit, licence or exemption?

If you store, handle, transport, treat, recover, reuse or recycle waste plastics, you must hold a waste management licence or an exemption and you must meet your requirements under the duty of care.

Your waste responsibilities

If your business is in Northern Ireland or Scotland you can use the toolkit designed for each country to help you structure a management plan to control your business' environmental impacts.

For further information, see our management toolkits.

Northern Ireland environmental management toolkit

Scotland environmental management toolkit

Your business may need to comply with packaging regulations.


Hazardous/special waste

You will need to treat some metals as hazardous/special waste, for example metal in waste oil filters, spent battery casings or mercury in fluorescent tubes.

Hazardous / special waste

Oil recycling

You must treat hazardous/special waste metals in designated, signed, bunded treatment areas. You must keep hazardous/special waste separate from all other materials. You should clean and treat metals that are contaminated with hazardous/special waste such as grease, engine oil, coolant or similar chemicals before you store them. This reduces the risk of cross contamination and pollution. Use secondary containment systems or bunds to contain any spills or contaminated run-off from metals cleaning.

Pollution Prevention Guideline (PPG) 2 contains guidance on bunding and storage.

GPP 2 Above ground oil storage tanks 

Before you reuse, recover, recycle or dispose of waste containers, you must check whether their contents are classified as hazardous/special waste. Read the label on the container or the relevant safety data sheet to help you do this.

If the contents are classified as hazardous, then you must treat the entire container as hazardous/special waste.

Your supplier may take back containers to reuse or recycle them.


In Northern Ireland you must have a discharge consent, groundwater authorisation or a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit before you discharge anything other than clean uncontaminated water to the environment. This includes sewage, trade effluent or contaminated surface run-off.

NIEA: Regulation of water discharges

In Scotland you must comply with the Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) when making discharges. Some discharges of water run-off to surface water and groundwater are authorised if you comply with the general binding rules (GBR). In such cases, you do not need to apply for authorisation from SEPA. For other discharges you may need to register or get a licence.

SEPA: CAR – A practical guide

You must comply with all the conditions of your authorisation, permit or consent.


If you use solvents, chemical baths or degreasers to clean metals prior to recycling, you must follow regulations on solvent emissions. You should consider using water based alternatives.

Solvent emissions

Chemical recycling for recycling and reprocessing businesses

Storage and handling

Store metals for recycling on hard, waterproof surfaces, under cover and as far away as possible from watercourses. Do not store metals on bare earth. This could allow contaminants such as dirt, grease or rust to pollute land and watercourses, for example if rust from metals was washed into a stream.

Separate metals to avoid contamination. For example store oily industrial scrap metals away from clean food packaging cans.

Waste storage and transport

Metal cutting

If you use machinery to shear, cut, compact or bale metals into smaller chunks for reprocessing, use designated processing areas and mesh screens. This prevents metals, dust and sparks from escaping and causing pollution.

Metal cutting machinery is noisy, and can create both smoke and odours. Your activities must not create a nuisance for your neighbours or the local community.


Noise, odour and other nuisances

Air pollution from furnaces, boilers and bonfires

You will probably produce sparks when you cut metals. Only cut metals in no smoking areas with fire extinguishers, and away from flammable materials such as paper or tyres.

Further information

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