Wisconsin Metal Scrap Statute

The State Metals Theft Laws summaries are not intended to provide or be relied as a legal advice. This material is provided to serve as a reasonable compilation of the most current state scrap laws and is intended to be a resource or supplement to, and provide ideas for, compliance with all applicable laws. The ISRI State Scrap Laws are subject to change and readers should visit http://www.isri.org/metalstheftdb to make certain they are reading the most recent version of ISRI's summaries of the State Metals Theft Laws
Overview of Provisions (use the section titles to travel directly to that section)

Please Note: Wisconsin includes Plastic Bulk Merchandise Containers of bottled beverages in the definition of Proprietary Articles and provisions governing such.

Wis. Stat. Ch. 285, Sec. 59; Section 285.59: Air Pollution - Recovery of Ozone-Depleting Refrigerants, includes rules for the salvaging and dismantling of mechanical vapor compression refrigeration equipment that are not included in the summary below.

Material Covered and Other Definitions

"Scrap Metal" means a Metal Article; metal removed from or obtained by cutting, demolishing, or disassembling a building, structure, or manufactured item; or other metal that is no longer used for its original intended purpose and that can be processed for reuse in a mill, foundry, or other manufacturing facility.

"Ferrous Scrap" means Scrap Metal, other than metal meeting another definition, consisting primarily of iron or steel, including large manufactured articles that may contain other substances to be removed and sorted during normal operations of Scrap Metal Dealers.

"Nonferrous Scrap" means Scrap Metal consisting primarily of metal other than iron or steel, but does not include any of the following:

  • Aluminum beverage cans.
  • Used household items.
  • Items removed from a structure during renovation or demolition.
  • Small quantities of nonferrous metals contained in large manufactured items.

"Metal Article" means a manufactured item that consists of metal, is usable for its original intended purpose without processing, repair, or alteration, and is offered for sale for the value of the metal it contains, except that "Metal Article" does not include antique or collectible articles, including jewelry, coins, silverware, and watches.

"Proprietary Article" means any of the following:

  • A Metal Article stamped, engraved, stenciled, or otherwise marked to identify the article as the property of a governmental entity, telecommunications provider, public utility, cable operator, as defined in Section 66.0420(2)(d), or an entity that produces, transmits, delivers, or furnishes electricity, or transportation, shipbuilding, ship repair, mining, or manufacturing company.
  • A copper conductor, bus bar, cable, or wire, whether stranded or solid.
  • An aluminum conductor, cable, or wire, whether stranded or solid.
  • A metal beer keg.
  • A manhole cover.
  • A metal grave marker, sculpture, plaque, or vase, if the item's appearance suggests the item has been obtained from a cemetery.
  • A rail, switch component, spike, angle bar, tie plate, or bolt used to construct railroad track.
  • A "Plastic Bulk Merchandise Container", meaning a plastic crate, pallet, or shell used by a product producer, distributor, or retailer for the bulk transport or storage of retail containers of bottled beverages.

"Scrap Dealer", or Dealer as used in this summary, means a Scrap Plastic Dealer or Scrap Metal Dealer.

  • "Scrap Metal Dealer" means a person engaged in the business of buying or selling Scrap Metal.
  • "Scrap Plastic Dealer" means a person engaged in the business of buying or selling plastic to be processed for reuse in a mill or other manufacturing facility.

"Commercial Enterprise" means a corporation, partnership, limited liability company, business operated by an individual, association, state agency, political subdivision, or other government or business entity, including a Dealer.

"Commercial Account" means a Commercial Enterprise with which a Dealer maintains an ongoing and documented business relationship.


A purchase of scrap other than Nonferrous Scrap, Metal Articles, or Proprietary articles by a scrap metal dealer is exempt from all but the No Purchase from Minors provision.


Unless the Seller is a Commercial Account, a Dealer must record the following for purchases of Nonferrous Scrap, Metal Articles, or Proprietary Articles:

  • The Seller's or Deliverer's full name, current address, date of birth, and identification number from a current government-issued photo ID;
  • The time and date of the purchase;
  • The license number and state of issuance of the Seller's or Deliverer's vehicle;
  • A description of the items received, including the weight of the articles, and for items other than plastic bulk merchandise containers, a description consistent with guidelines from a national recycling industry trade organization;
  • For Nonferrous Scrap or Metal Articles, the Seller's signed declaration of ownership;

For Proprietary Articles, either:

  • Documentation establishing the Seller's lawful possession of the article, such as a bill of sale, receipt, letter of authorization, or similar; or
  • The Dealer's documentation of a diligent inquiry into whether the Seller has a legal right to sell the article.
Recordkeeping - Commercial Account

For purchases of Nonferrous Scrap, Metal Articles, or Proprietary Articles from a Commercial Account, a Dealer must record the following:

  • The full name of the Commercial Account;
  • The business address and telephone number;
  • The name of a contact at the Commercial Account who is responsible for the sale of such items to the Dealer;
  • The time and date of each purchase;
  • The value of each purchase;
  • A description of the predominant types of Nonferrous Scrap, Metal Articles, or Proprietary Articles the Dealer has purchased from the Commercial Account.
Retention and Disclosure of Records

A Dealer must retain records for at least 2 years following a transaction; a Commercial Account's name, address, telephone number, and contact must be retained for 2 years after the most recent transaction with the Commercial Account. A Dealer may only disclose personally identifiable information as required by the Inspection or Reporting provisions or to a successor in interest to the Dealer. A law enforcement officer receiving information from a record or report may only disclose it to another law enforcement officer or agency.


A Dealer shall make records available to a law enforcement officer who presents the agent's credentials at the Dealer's place of business during normal business hours.


For a Proprietary Article purchased without documentation establishing lawful possession, a Dealer must report within 1 business day to a local law enforcement department:

  • A description of the article; and
  • The Seller's or Deliverer's identifying information.

A local law enforcement officer may request that all Dealers in the jurisdiction furnish reports of all purchases of Nonferrous Scrap, Metal Articles, and Proprietary Articles within 1 business day following the purchase with the following information:

  • Each Seller's or Deliverer's name, date of birth, identification number and address;
  • The license number and state of issuance on each Seller's or Deliverer's vehicle.
No Purchase from Minors

A Dealer may not purchase Scrap Metal from any person who is not over the age of 18.


A Dealer who knowingly violates the law is subject to the following, with each day constituting a separate violation:

  • 1st offense: up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to 90 days imprisonment;
  • 2nd offense: up to a $10,000 fine and/or up to 9 months imprisonment;
  • 3rd or subsequent: a Class I felony

Under Theft (Section 943.20), "value" means the market value at the time of the theft or the cost to the victim of replacing the property within a reasonable time after the theft, whichever is less. If the property stolen is Scrap Metal or a Plastic Bulk Merchandise Container, "value" also includes any costs that would be incurred in repairing or replacing any property damaged in the theft or removal of the scrap metal or plastic bulk merchandise container.

Under Section 895.09, any owner of Nonferrous Scrap, a Metal Article, or a Proprietary Article, who incurs injury or loss as a result of a violation of the scrap metal law (Section 134.405) or theft (Section 943.20) may bring a civil action against the person who committed the violation. The person who incurs the loss has the burden of proving by the preponderance of evidence that a violation of Section  134.405 or Section 943.20 occurred. If the action prevails, the court shall grant all of the following:

  • Actual damages and any lost profits attributable to the violation, reduced by the amount of any restitution collected for the same act under Section 800.093 or Section 973.20;
  • Notwithstanding the limitations under Section 799.25 or Section 814.04, costs, disbursements, and reasonable attorney fees.
  • Punitive damages, if the court finds the violation was committed for the purpose of a commercial advantage.

A county, town, city, or village may enact an ordinance governing the sale or purchase of Scrap Metal or Bulk Plastic Merchandise Containers if the ordinance is not more stringent than the state law, except a 1st class city may enact a more stringent ordinance. Any city, village, town, or county may require by ordinance that Dealers submit the reports provided for in the Reporting provision in an electronic format to a law enforcement officer.

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This summary of State Metals Theft Laws is being viewed on this website under license and is owned and copyrighted by Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. ("ISRI"),1615 L Street, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036.