Tennessee Scrap Laws

iron pipes being hauled away to be scrapped

Tennessee Scrap Laws

Roane Metals Group makes this information about scrap metal laws in Tennessee available as a resource or supplement to applicable laws. This article is intended to summarize these scrap metal laws and is not intended as legal advice.

Tennessee scrap metal laws is a topic that should be discussed regularly among police, community businesses, local governments, and scrap dealers in effort to stay informed on the latest scrap metal laws impacting what sellers can bring to dealers and recycling centers and remain safe while doing so. Sellers of scrap metal materials can range from individuals, groups, commercial companies, and major industrial corporations. Scrap metal is mostly waste waiting to get turned into cash, and some metals, such as copper, can be very valuable. Here is our run down of the scrap laws in Tennessee.

Tennessee Scrap Metal Laws

Most of the laws created around scrap metals protect them from theft, which can lead to severe problems including power blackouts, destruction of personal property, disruption to railway traffic, and traffic accidents. Some scrap metal laws in Tennessee are focused on protecting the environment and safety of the public.

Metal Theft

All 50 states have laws requiring scrap dealers to keep records of certain sales, and many take it a step further – by mandating photographic records of sellers, vehicles, items sold, etc. In some states, sellers must be fingerprinted. Why the extreme precaution, you may ask? Metal theft costs the US economy an estimated $1 billion annually. For example, in California, thieves shut down numerous websites operated by state agencies when they ripped copper wire from a mile-long section of highway. Some think of scrap metal theft as a victimless crime, but unfortunately, it isn’t. Many of the situations that criminals put themselves and others in for the sake of illegally earning money, sadly risks safety, livelihoods, and more.

As the prices for certain recycled metals go up due to demand, criminals take advantage of every opportunity to steal these materials. Here is how Tennessee legislators deter criminals from selling back their stolen materials or catch them in them before they strike again:

Tennessee requires scrap metal dealers to fingerprint sellers.

Tennessee scrap dealers must take the seller’s fingerprints at the time of the metal being purchased.

Tennessee requires scrap sellers to provide their driver’s license to scrap dealer.

The seller’s driver’s license is copied at the time of metal purchase.

Tennessee requires scrap sellers to provide license plate information to scrap dealer.

A description and copy of the license plate of the seller’s vehicle is kept on record.

Tennessee requires scrap metal dealers to keep records.

Scrap dealers must keep records of all transactions for 3 years. During the usual business hours of a scrap metal dealer, a law enforcement officer has the right to inspect, without a warrant or subpoena, any purchased scrap metals in the possession of the dealer and any records required to be maintained by the dealer.

Tennessee places payment restrictions on select materials from scrap sellers at time of purchase.  

If a business or industrial group is selling copper to a scrap dealer, the dealer must mail a check for payment to the place of business, unless they are a registered business. If it is not a business selling the metal, the check or payment will be sent to their address 5 days later.

2021 Catalytic Converter Law

Catalytic converters are exhaust emission devices used to reduce pollutants created by a vehicle’s internal combustion engine, but in the last few months, thieves found that stealing these devices was a lucrative business because of the precious metals they contain.

As of July 1, 2021, any person engaged in the business of buying or selling scrap metal — including catalytic converters — are required to be registered as scrap metal dealers and must notify their local chief of police and sheriff. By registering with the police, scrap metal dealers become a part of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Scrap Metal Registration Program, which includes providing thumbprints.

In Chattanooga, Chattanooga police arrested a man with four and a half dozen catalytic converters that he didn’t have a license for buying for selling. The man is now being charged for each converter in his possession, under the new Tennessee state law.

Other Specific Scrap Metal Laws

In addition to catalytic converters, there are Tennessee scrap metal laws surrounding specific items and the way they are purchased by the dealer.

Buying or selling of government-owned, historical, or utility scrap metal is prohibited unless authorization is granted.

Items include but are not limited to:

  • Scrap metal marked with the initials of an electric, telephone, cable, or other public utility, or an electric or telephone cooperative
  • Utility access covers
  • Street light poles and fixtures
  • Road and bridge guard rails
  • Highway or street signs
  • Water meter covers
  • Traffic directional and control signs
  • Traffic light signals
  • Any scrap metal visibly marked or painted with the name of a government entity, business, company, or the name of the owner of metal
  • Property owned by a telephone, cable, electric, water or other utility, an electric or telephone cooperative or a railroad, and marked or otherwise identified as such
  • Unused and undamaged historical markers, or grave markers and vases

Tennessee Law: It is a Class A misdemeanor (and possibly subject to other theft offenses) to knowingly sell or attempt to sell to a scrap metal dealer, or for a scrap metal dealer to knowingly purchase or attempt to purchase the utility, historical, or governmentally owned scrap metal (unless the person attempting to sell the scrap metal provides reasonable, written documentation that the seller authorized; then the dealer must make a photocopy of any such documentation and retain it as part of the transaction record).

Air conditioner coils or condensers may only be sold by an authorized representative or employee.

Tennessee Law: It is a Class A misdemeanor (and possibly other criminal offenses) for a scrap metal dealer to pay cash to a person who presents an air conditioner evaporator coil or condenser, in whole or in part, for sale as scrap, or for such dealer to make payment of any kind at the time of the transaction.

Payment must be made by check or money order, mailed to the business address of the company for whom the metal is being sold, and the name of such company must be the payee on the check.

Scrap metal dealers cannot purchase or possess metal beer kegs.

Tennessee Law: It is a Class A misdemeanor (and possibly other criminal offenses) for a scrap metal dealer to knowingly purchase or possess a metal beer keg, whether damaged or undamaged, or any reasonably recognizable part thereof, on any premises that the dealer uses to buy, sell, store, shred, melt, cut or otherwise alter scrap metal.

All vehicles must have a title, unless the vehicle is older than 12 years.

Tennessee Law: The vehicle to be salvaged must be presented at the scrap yard with the title, unless the vehicle is older than twelve years. However, even if the vehicle is older than twelve and a title is not presented, a Certificate of Ownership form will need to be filled out. After a three-day holding time, the scrap yard will be able to crush the car.

One option is that a title search can be performed for as little as $5. As the vehicle is being processed, the scrap yard will check a database of stolen VIN numbers to see if the VIN on the car matches one that has been reported stolen. Learn more about Tennessee vehicle scrapping regulations here.

Tennessee and other state legislation use laws like the ones listed above to protect the safety of the public, their property, local businesses, and the environment. Without these laws, rules, and regulations, scrap dealers and scrap sellers would not be protected. For more information on what to scrap and what not to scrap, click here.

When you scrap, you need a dealer who is informed, valued, & trusted.

Roane Metals Group  buys ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal directly from the public, as well as, from industrial and commercial scrap metal sellers. Want to receive the highest pay for your metal sales, whether you are looking to make some extra cash from your recyclable aluminum cans or wanting to sell an old automobile or appliance? We have two convenient locations in Rockwood, TN and Crossville, TN. Reach out to us directly with any questions.