Vehicle recycling

The automobile is already one of the most effectively recovered and recycled consumer products, with its parts being used again in vehicles or for other purposes. The metals used in its manufacture are routinely recovered, reused and recycled to high levels. The challenge is to recover non-metallic parts to enable the very high levels required by law.

The End of Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive seeks to increase the level of reuse and recycling of vehicles, improve environmental standards at sites processing ELVs and limit the use of material harmful to the environment in new vehicles.

From 2015 the industry must ensure that 95% (up from 85% previously) of the vehicle by weight is re-used, recycled or recovered. The sector has been achieving the previous target but the new tougher limits have required considerable investment from both the vehicle manufacturers (VMs) and the recycling industry in new processes.

With the arrival of innovative new materials and powertrains, including lithium-ion batteries, the sector is developing processes to ensure the effective re-use, recycling and recovery of future vehicles and their components. Industry is also developing alternative uses – second life opportunities – for new battery types, including for energy storage for projects outside the auto sector, eg storing electricity from solar panels in the home.

When a vehicle reaches the end of its life it must be disposed of in an environmentally responsible way through an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF). Through the End of Life Vehicles (ELVs) Directive, VMs have an obligation to provide free take-back for cars and light commercial vehicles. VMs have partnered with companies such as CarTakeBack and Rewarding Recycling that will not only collect vehicles that have reached the end of their usable life and issue the necessary Certificate of Destruction (CoD), but in some cases will pay the last owner for the vehicle. The vehicle can then be disposed of and parts re-used, recycled or used for energy recovery.

SMMT, on behalf of the industry, made an agreement with Autogreen to provide ELV producer responsibility for orphan vehicles – those brands that are no longer commercially active, eg where the original manufacturer or importer has ceased trading. To use this service please go to http://www.rewardingrecycling.co.uk/smmt. This means the entire car and LCV parc is covered by the ELV Directive and consumers can easily dispose of their vehicles in a no-cost, safe and environmentally friendly manner.