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Overview

What’s the problem?

We all like to have new cars - the 160 million or so cars now on European roads are testimony to that. The problem is what to do with the old ones. When a vehicle reaches the end of its working life it has to be disposed of correctly. Discarded vehicles generate some of today's worst environmental hazards. While some three-quarters of the raw materials (mainly metals) can be recycled, reused or recovered, a quarter (mainly plastics) cannot. This non-metallic part has to be disposed of as waste in a landfill site. Plastics are increasingly being used to replace metal because they reduce the car's weight and thus its fuel consumption. Unlike metals, however, plastics are much more difficult to recycle.

Where do all the used cars go?

An old car represents one tonne of scrap. Between 8 million and 9 million cars are discarded each year in the European Union, creating around 2 million tonnes of non-metallic waste which ends up in landfills.
Europe is running out of both room and public acceptance for such methods of waste disposal. Besides becoming scarce and expensive, sites for landfills are also causing concern over their adverse effects on the environment.

Europe is working on it

Treating the remaining waste left by old cars after the separation of the metal parts for recycling is not economical; it is cheaper to dump it as landfill. To tip the balance in favour of the environment and reduce the waste resulting from used cars, a European directive on discarded or end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) was finally adopted by the EU in 2000. Its aim is to reduce the pollution caused by cars at the end of their working life by reusing and recycling them as much as possible.

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Recycling vehicles