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What the new ELV Directive aims to change

At this year’s International Automobile Recycling Congress (IARC 2021), one of the keynote presentations was by Artemis Hatzi-Hull from the European Commission, Belgium, who discussed what the review of the ELV Directive aims to change. And following on from this was a panel discussion on the Revision of the End of Life Vehicles directive and the Green Deal: threat or opportunity?


What the new ELV Directive aims to change f
Artemis Hatzi-Hull
A brief look at the ELV Directive


Artemis likened the ELV Directive to the IARC 2021 in age but not in renewal, she said that, unlike the event, which takes place every year and follows the changes, the directive had not changed since its adoption to follow the new technologies, the new materials and new challenges, particularly when it comes to EVs. But, she said, now is the time to align the directive with these aspects.

The ELV Directive was adopted in 2000 and is the first EU wide legal framework on ELVs treatment and has never been substantially revised since its adoption. 

The Directive’s main objectives are to promote reuse, recycling and recovery of ELVs and their components, improve the environmental performance of car manufacturers and all economical involvement in the vehicle’s life cycle, and ensure the smooth operation in the internal market and avoid distortion of competition.

Facts, figures and materials


Artemis highlighted some figures, she said every year for the last ten years, about 4 million vehicles deemed to be ELVs each year are not reported. These are the ‘missing’ ELVs, and they represent about 35% of the total number of ELVs being processed.

Artemis told the delegates how the production of vehicles has changed over the past 20 years, including more plastics and electronics. She said the car industry is changing due to climate change and should present an opportunity to move to a circular model. 

She said, there is also more lightweight materials used in vehicles – plastics have increased from 12 to 18%, which represents 9% of global plastic waste. And of course, EVs contain valuable but hard to recover materials, which is an issue that needs to be looked at carefully. She then asked a rhetorical question, how are these new vehicles going to be designed and produced, and how can we deal with them as end of life vehicles?

Looking at the review process of the ELV Directive, although it has not been substantially amended since its adoption, it had a fitness check in 2014 and the Commission’s compliance promotion initiative on the implementation

of the ELV Directive with emphasis on the ELVs of unknown whereabouts in 2018. The review was requested by the co-legislators (European Parliament and the Council) in 2018 and was also requested in the Green Deal and Circular Economy Action Plan. 

The first part of the review was the evaluation, which was published on 15th March 2021. This looked at how the ELV Directive has performed up to date, and it identifies the challenges we need to consider and address. She said these challenges would be addressed, and solutions will be explored and found in the impact assessment of the ELV Directive roadmap to which was published for consultation on the 22nd October 2020. From this, the Commission received around 65 positions from stakeholders. The finalisation of this exercise will lead to a legislative proposal set for the fourth quarter of 2022.



When discussing the achievements identified in the evaluation, Artemis said that the evaluation had largely found out that the ELV Directive had served its purpose. She added that it is a good directive and remains necessary because it restricted the use of hazardous substances, such as lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium in vehicles and their parts. It has ensured that metal components in ELVs are reused, recycled or recovered at very high rates. It has reduced the number of abandoned cars. It has established minimum harmonised technical requirements for the ELV treatment, and it has minimised uncontrolled disposal and illegal activities. 

Challenges and commitments 


But she said problems were identified in the directive, including the scope of the Directive leaving out about 45 million vehicles, mainly trucks, motorcycles, and buses. It has not led to better eco-design of cars nor to use of recycled materials despite being in the directive. There are many “missing vehicles” – 35% of estimated vehicles each year are not reported (4 Million) – either treated illegally in the EU or exported as used vehicles or not properly deregistered/re-registered. In addition, the directive today does not address technological advancements and future challenges.

She went on to discuss what the commitments are under the European Green Deal (EGD) and the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) for end-of-life vehicles. She said that the reduction of waste generation at the core is through changes in the design of products, high-quality recycling and uptake of recycled materials in new products. 

The European Green Deal identifies vehicles as one of the products where “the Commission will consider legal requirements to boost the market of secondary raw materials with mandatory recycled content”.

Vehicles are among seven sectors selected as the key product value chains in the Circular Economy Action Plan. The Legislative task states: ‘The Commission will also propose to revise the rules on end-of-life vehicles with a view to promoting more circular business models by linking design issues to end-of-life treatment, considering rules on mandatory recycled content for certain materials of components, and improving recycling efficiency.’

What the new ELV Directive aims to change p
Artemis Hatzi-Hull presenting at IARC 2021
Main objectives


She discussed the main objectives of the impact assessment, which was to turn the automotive sector into a circular economy in line with the Green Deal Avenues. Items to be explored include:

1) eliminating implementation obstacles:

  • Include motorcycles and bigger trucks
  • fully-fledged EPR scheme
  • “missing vehicles”: improved vehicle traceability system
  • tackle export of used vehicles vs ELVs
  • strengthen enforcement mechanism (mandatory inspections, reporting)

2) address technological advancement and future challenges

  • upgrade eco-design of cars
  • set ambitious, specific and measurable targets for reuse and recycling (material based approach)
  • mandatory use of recycled content
  • Extend lifetime: repair, remanufacturing, reuse
ELV Directive review – options


Finally, Artemis talked about the three options for the review, which are as follows:

Option One is not to amend the directive, but they can simply amend the guidelines or frequently asked questions. They can arrange exchanges between member states, and for the missing vehicles, they can think of better enforcement and inspections and better controls of shipments of used vehicles. And for harmonisation and reporting, they can change the existing reporting commission decision. But from this, she said, the impact will be limited as it is not addressing the main challenges we are facing.

Option Two is a targeted modification of the ELV Directive to boost recycling and reuse that means:

  • They will have better alignment with EU waste legislation (clearer definition of recycling)
  • They will reduce the number of “missing vehicles” through new enforcement measures
  • They will have new, more ambitious targets for reuse and recycling, per materials such as plastics, and promotion of remanufacturing
  • They will set a fully-fledged Extended Producers’ Responsibility system for the financing of recycling/reuse of all materials
  • They will facilitate access of dismantlers to information on parts and materials used in cars
  • They will have better harmonisation of reporting across the EU Member States

Lastly, she discussed Option Three, which she said was the most ambitious and complete challenge; it will follow the life cycle of the vehicles from design to manufacturing, dismantling to recycling, and this option would be a much broader and ambitious approach. 

She said the first thing that should change is the nature of the instrument, from the directive to a regulation. The scope of the directive would be extended to the whole life cycle of the vehicle, not just the waste stage, and new vehicles would be added, such as trucks and motorcycles. This option would require the merge of the ELV Directive with the three R targets – recycle, reuse and recovery targets. Improved design of vehicles – closing the loop between the vehicle production and ELV treatment-would set up the mandatory target(s) for a minimum content of recycled plastics in new cars. And on the missing vehicles, in addition to better exchange of information between member states and registration, the new regulation would also set up restrictions on the export of used vehicles. These vehicles could not be exported without, for example, a roadworthiness certificate, and it is something they are currently working on.

For the timeline of the impact assessment, they were hoping the consultation would be open this June, but it is now likely to be launched at the end of July and will remain open for at least 12 weeks. Alongside this, there will be a targeted survey and stakeholders interviews with the main actors in manufacturing and the recycling industry for cars. The aim is to have a stakeholder’s workshop at the end of the year to announce the outcome of this consultation. And by the end of the second quarter of 2022, they will have the reports of the ongoing contracts that will enable them to start working on the proposal they aim to present before the end of 2022.

Q & A


Following Artemis’ presentation was the panel session to discuss the review. Amélie Sophie Salau from ACEA said of the review of the Directive that any amendments or changes proposed by the commission should support and strengthen the existing system and not disrupt the smooth functioning of the current scheme. She added that this review should also be used as an opportunity to ensure that overlapping regulations are brought within the scope of the ELV framework.

When moderator Willy Tomboy from Detomserve asked if anyone favoured option one, there was a resounding silence. Although Amelie pointed out how ACEA would like to see options one and two combined. 

The response from those who would like to see the directive follow option two was high, Willy asked the floor why option two was the best approach. A representative from Volvo Cars responded by saying that a hybrid of option one and two would work; he said that the point of ‘better harmonisation of reporting across the EU Member States’ in option two was key in ensuring we move forward. A delegate from Switzerland said that reducing the number of missing vehicles through new enforcement measures was key. He said that in Switzerland, they are looking to introduce new taxes on recycling cars, which could create some form of control. 

Another delegate from France said ‘that if missing vehicles are not linked with the registration/deregistration system and it is fully closed, then millions of vehicles will always be missed. She said, whatever is done in the ELV Directive, there needs to be a complete traceable system for the cars. She said that this is not just the commission’s responsibility, but it is also the responsibility of those that register/deregister the cars.’

In reply, Artemis said that they are aware of the problems with registration/deregistration systems. In all member states, there are different administrations responsible for reaching the targets (ex. Department for the Environment) and different administrations for the registration/deregistration of vehicles (ex. Department of Transport). This system is national, and member states have fought long to accept an EU legislation on that. There is a system called Eucaris, an online information exchange system for EU member states for the exchange of information for registration and where the commission only assumes a secretarial role. Still, they follow discussions of the member states, mainly on the problems and challenges of registration/deregistration and try to gear them towards a common approach. It has been met with a positive response from some member states. Other than this, the commission will also be present in the next meeting for the national administrations on registration/deregistration to underline the problems and urge them to harmonise the systems.

Concerning option three, Willy asked Artemis ‘what are the chances that the Directive will become a regulation?’

Artemis said that chances are high because it is a priority for the commission to have this circularity in cars, and this is the option they are working towards because, she said, there needs to be a thorough amendment of the directive. They need to be bold and anticipate future challenges, and ensure that there won’t be different interpretations. A regulation means it is directly applicable as it is, so there will be no misunderstandings by member states. As for the time, it is a proposal to be ready by 2022.

To find out more about the recent IARC 2021, go to

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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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