UK group the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) is helping spearhead a police operation to metal theft.

Operation Tornado aims to make it easier to trace sellers of stolen metal through an identification scheme

Anyone selling scrap metal to participating dealers in the northeast of England is now required to provide proof of their identity by producing either a photo card driving license including an address, or a passport or national ID card supported with a utility bill. These must be must be under three months old and show their address.

The operation is being run by the police, UK Government and the BMRA.

The trial is one of a number of measures being explored to restrict the sale and movement of stolen metal. It has been designed to remove unscrupulous dealers who operate outside the law.

About 80% of the scrap metal recyclers in the region have signed up to be involved in the trial to help fight the stolen metal trade and make it more difficult for thieves to make money.

Metal theft is a growing problem and UK legislation dating back to the 1960s is not sufficient to deal with an increasingly organised crime. The UK government said it was examining what changes to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 are needed.

Ian Hetherington, director general at the British Metals Recycling Association, said: “Metals theft is a real problem for the metals industry and BMRA continues to advise government on the issue.

“BMRA and our members are actively supporting Operation Tornado. The measures being trialed are sensible and provide the basis for a reform of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act – which we all want.”