The EU End of Life Vehicle Directive

Throughout the 1990s, there were growing concerns around the amount of waste produced during the ELV recycling process, in addition to questions around the environmental practices of scrap yards and car breakers. End of life vehicles create millions of tonnes of waste each year, across the UK and Europe. In the UK specifically, almost 2 million vehicles reach the end of their life each year.

As a result of this, the EU put forward the End of Life Vehicles Directive in order to solve this issue and regulate this waste stream, which was adopted as a UK law in 2002. This is in addition to other laws and directives designed to improve other waste streams, such as WEEE regulations.

The EU End-of-Life Vehicles Directive affects both vehicle manufacturers and - according to the European Commission - "sets clear quanitified targets for reuse, recycling and recovery of the ELVs and their components". It aims to:

  • Reduce the amount of waste from the scrapping of vehicles
  • Limit the use of hazardous materials
  • Ensure that vehicles will be processed to remove pollutants - e.g. oils, brake fluids and fuel
  • Minimise risk to those working in the industry and to the wider environment
  • Increase the proportion of ELVs recovered (by weight) through the scrap metal recycling process

Vehicle de-pollution is a key component of this directive - it is a legal requirement to depollute ELVs as part of the ELV recycling process. Depollution is a treatment process that ELVs must undertake in order to achieve the required level of recycling and recovery. It involves the recycling and re-use of materials, as well as the removal of elements of a vehicle that are harmful to the environment, such as airbags and tyres.

A more recent of outcome of the ELV regulations has been the take-back scheme; through this BIS-approved system, if you own an ELV, you can take it to a treatment facility at no cost. Since January 2007, this applies to all qualifying vehicles.

Authoristed Treatment Facilities for ELVs

Due to the ELV directive, many treatment facilities have invested in order to meet the regulations and requirements, primarily through the installation of high volume de-pollution rigs and ELV recycling equipment.

These waste sites can apply to be an authorised treatment facility, which means that they need to follow specific recommendations in terms of handling, recycling and disposing of ELVs.

In order to become an ATF, sites need planning permission and a correct environmental permit. Your waste site will then be inspected by the Environment Agency, to make sure that ELVs are properly stored, with all parts removed and recycled correctly. Once you become an ATF, your site will be inspected regularly.

The EU End of Life Vehicle Directive