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Making car recycling more environmentally friendly


Advanced technologies to increase the recovery rate from end-of-life vehicles can help Member States achieve EU targets for resource and energy recovery.

There is a clear responsibility on car manufacturers in the EU to ensure maximum recycling when vehicles reach their end-of-life stage. This requires the incorporation of end-of-life management principles into the early design and development stages of vehicle production.

Currently, some nine million end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) are scrapped every year in the EU. While the separated ferrous (70%) and non-ferrous (5%) scrap components are all recycled, the remaining 25% of automotive shredder residue (ASR) consists mainly of non-reusable contaminated plastics. Until the carmakers overcome such problems, this ASR has to be disposed in landfills.

A recent study by Krystyna Srogi of the Polish Institute for Chemical Processing of Coal examined methods to reduce the amount of ASR deposited in landfills and investigated technologies that could help Member States meet the targets set by the EU Directive on ELVs adopted in 2000. This Directive aimed to harmonise existing rules, while also pushing Member States to translate its key requirements into national law. It has also set a 2015 deadline for its 95% reuse/recovery and 85% reuse/recycling targets.

Of the three ASR recovery methods, incineration is seen as a less environmentally friendly process than pyrolysis, as it has high emission levels. Pyrolysis has no such disadvantage, and through its application of heat organic material is broken down.

The process produces gas which may be used as an energy source, and leaves only a small amount of residue. Gasification creates lower emissions than incineration, and also produces a gas fuel. The remaining residue can then be used in the construction industry.

More information:

    Institute for Chemical Processing of Coal: http://www.ichpw.zabrze.pl/?setlang=en

    EU Directive on ELVs: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/elv_index.htm

    ‘An overview of current processes for the thermochemical treatment of automobile shredder residue’; Krystyna Srogi (Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy): http://www.springerlink.com/content/w78401428urk3714/?p=844c1fb149af4d97a7823d77f5754d5a&pi=1

    A study to examine the benefits of the End of Life Vehicles Directive and the costs and benefits of a revision of the 2015 targets for recycling, re-use and recovery under the ELV Directive: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/pdf/study/final_report.pdf

    Commission report on the implementation of Directive 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles for the period 2002-2005: COM 2007 618: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/pdf/reports/com_2007_618_en.pdf

Differing landfill policies

The EU adopted its end of life Directive in 2000 to manage the waste problems generated when scrapping vehicles. This ELV Directive obliges car makers to make their vehicles more recyclable and establishes clear targets for reuse, recycling and recovery of vehicles and their components.However, it will be difficult to meet these targets until the volume of ASR – estimated to be two million tonnes a year – is further reduced. The Directive aims to reduce the amount of ASR deposited in landfills to 5%.Environmental policies differ between Member States, but there is a strong belief that increases in landfill costs represents one of the best driver to eco-efficient treatments.