By Andria Kades
SCRAP metal thefts are on the rise in Cyprus with people resorting to more extreme measures to illegally obtain – and sell – recyclable materials.
The phenomenon, not new to the island, has been steadily increasing particularly after the economic crisis, a police source said.
“We try to increase patrols and continuously run campaigns to combat the issues. The police is doing everything possible,” the source told the Cyprus Mail.
The most common modus operandi is to climb onto rooftops and steal the copper from cables and solar panels, taking iron rods from building sites and robbings cans from recycling points.
Cans for Kids, a charity operating since 1990 that donates all its proceeds to the Makarios hospital children’s ward, is getting desperate after the rise in thefts.
“More than half of our cans are stolen and in the past few years we have no income for donations,” Lakis Charalambous, one of the founders of the charity said.
The problem is that scrap metal merchants, although supposedly regulated and who only buy from licensed individuals or companies, often do not adhere to the law and buy the material illegally at much lower prices, increasing their profits.
“It is a subject that concerns us,” the police source said.
Before the economic crisis, Cans for Kids used to collect 35 to 40 tonnes of cans a year, a number which has dropped to 15 tonnes.
“We can no longer help children as much as we want to,” which is the sole purpose of the organisation, Charalambous said.
His wife Rosie, also a founder, said that the philanthropic nature of Cans for Kids was also why they did not want to prosecute anyone who stole – it defies the very essence of their values.
“A lot of these people are poor, we don’t want to ruin someone’s life. We just want them to understand it’s not right,” she added.
From their 100 collection points across the country, the ones out of the capital are harder to keep an eye on due to their inability to be everywhere at once.
“In Nicosia, I drive around and sometimes I’ve caught a few people stealing cans. One man told me he didn’t care. He had a family, kids and no money and he needed even six euros for something to eat.”
With their minimal income it is difficult to find ways to protect their recycling points citing examples of a case where people took away the whole recycling bank for cans from the Limassol General hospital.
Asked whether police could or would do more to clamp down on merchants who are profiting and keeping the illegal parallel market going, the police reiterated that “they are doing everything they can.”
Today, Cans for Kids are organising an Earth Day at the Nicosia municipal centre in Pallouriotissa to sort out recyclables.