An EU report into car recycling singles out Britain as one of the worst performing countries in Europe. Holland and Sweden were commended for having reached a target of recycling more than 85% of cars. Since January 2005 car owners have been obliged to take their vehicle to a registered decontamination centre, where hazardous materials, including mercury and lead, brake fluid and toxic compounds found in airbags, are removed. But last year only 33% of the estimated 2m cars which were scrapped were issued with official certificates of decontamination.

The Guardian reports that under the End of Life Vehicles (ELV) European directive, car owners who do not obtain a certification of decontamination should be fined. But Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat MEP, said that British car owners were able to escape the fine because a loophole in the law allows them to tick a box on the DVLA deregistration form to say their vehicle has been dismantled.

“This is a great environmental law that will cut pollution from old cars and increase recycling of cars across the EU… but the government has failed to establish proper procedures,” Mr Davies said.

General Implementation of the Directive

A small number of countries with a good level of resource, effective administrative systems, and early experience of operating a highly regulated system of car disposal, have been able to implement the directive relatively smoothly. The Netherlands and Sweden are good examples in this respect, with Sweden having enacted its first car scrappage law in 1975, and implemented producer responsibility from 1998. Germany and Austria also implemented the Directive in a systematic and quite timely way. Many, however, have experienced significant difficulties, delays and setbacks in implementing the Directive. Reflecting this, the Commission has taken some form of legal action against most of the EU-15 Member States in relation to this Directive, in particular for late implementation.

There are a number of reasons that have contributed to these problems and help to explain the particular difficulties being experienced. Some of these are inherent in the complexity of the tasks required, and some arise from the specific terms and requirements of the Directive.

Waste disposal arrangements vary significantly in detail and in effectiveness from one state to another. Many of these arrangements date back many years, and were not originally designed to meet the requirements of the ELV Directive.

The Directive sought to make producers responsible for the cost to take back their products, not only for those yet to be put on the market, but also for those already on the market. The latter proved particularly controversial and was strongly opposed by the carmakers, and the Directive did not specify how the disposal of these cars would be funded during the transition period of 2002-2007.

The requirements of the Directive have increased the cost of car disposal, for example by requiring levels of reuse and recycling that will force all countries to go beyond the recycling of scrap metal, which was generally economically viable, and to begin to address recycling of other materials, combustion of certain wastes with heat recovery, etc.

Administrative arrangements have also been complex. For example, some of the requirements of the Directive need the establishment of national systems or standards, whereas waste management is often the responsibility of the Regions or municipal authorities. Other responsibilities may have been given to a national EPA2, or may rest with local authorities. Furthermore, in some countries, strict environmental standards and licensing requirements have been imposed on car dismantlers and scrappers for the first time, and this has been demanding in terms of resources for inspection and administration.

In most Member States the requirements for reporting and for certific

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Europe - EU report on car recycling places UK among worst
Rodrigo Imbelloni
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