Metals Recycling and Theft

Metal theft and the purchase of stolen metal is a crime. If you have information regarding illegal behavior at a scrap metal recycling site, contact your local police or sheriff’s department. Please keep in mind:

  • CalRecycle does not license scrap metal dealers or regulate the purchase or sale of scrap metal.
  • CalRecycle regulates beverage container recycling centers, which purchase and recycle used aluminum beverage cans and other California Refund Value beverage containers. In some instances, these may be co-located with scrap metal facilities, but CalRecycle’s authority does not extend to the scrap metal operation.
  • The California Department of Motor Vehicles licenses auto dismantlers.
  • The California Department of Toxic Substances Control operates the Certified Appliance Recycler program and also regulates metal shredding operations.
  • Anyone who weighs commodities for sale must use a scale which is inspected annually for accuracy by your county agricultural commissioner. The scale should bear a sticker indicating the year in which it was last inspected.


Because of the high value of some metals, and the resulting increase in metal theft, the State Legislature passed several bills intended to make it more difficult for thieves to earn money selling stolen metal. In addition to State Law, there may be local ordinances which impact the siting and operation of scrap metal recycling sites.

SB 691 (2008) and AB 844 (2008) prohibit a recycler from providing payment for non-ferrous metals until three days after the date of sale, with some exceptions. These bills require a metal recycler to photograph sellers of nonferrous metals, and obtain a thumbprint and a copy of the seller’s drivers’ license or picture ID. The recycler must also photograph the materials sold. These records must be retained for at least two years. AB 844 and SB 691 require those convicted of metal theft to pay restitution for the stolen materials and for any damage caused during the theft.

AB 1859 (2008) created a new crime and fines of up to $3,000 (in addition to other penalties) for anyone who buys or receives, for the purpose of salvage, any part of a fire hydrant or a fire department connection when they know that the material has been stolen.

For more information contact: Business Assistance,