Essential information for end of life vehicle dismantling, depollution and recycling

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End of Life Vehicle Recycling: Challenges and Opportunities

Bill Firth, Business Development General Manager at EMR Metal Recycling discusses EMR’s approach to challenges and opportunities in end of life vehicle recycling


Bill Firth End of Life Vehicle Recycling: Challenges and Opportunities post
Bill Firth

At EMR Metal Recycling, we recycle over 10 million tonnes of metal and plastics every year from a variety of sources – from large industrial projects to end of life vehicles (ELVs).  

As a world leader in metal recycling, we have had a long-standing and active involvement in the management and recycling of ELVs – even before the introduction of the ELV Directive in 2000, which aimed to make vehicle recycling more environmentally-friendly.

The implementation of regulations arising from the ELV Directive in the UK, and the introduction of further ELV recycling and recovery targets in 2005, required many changes within the industry.

EMR supported these changes and enhanced our overall recycling & recovery performance across our network of 65 sites by installing and developing a number of Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs). In addition, improvements were made to our shredder capabilities and developing downstream separation processes. 

In 2015, a further increase in ELV reuse & recycling and reuse & recovery levels, to 85% and 95% respectively, established extremely challenging targets. To attain them requires the effective integration of individual processes into a highly efficient supply chain, which is capable of operating at scale, to process the necessary volumes. EMR has undertaken this, but vehicle designs continue to rapidly change, resulting in a reduction in the steel content of vehicles and an increase in the use of plastics. 

The ability to achieve ELV recycling & recovery levels is strongly correlated with the amount of plastics that can be extracted, and this substitutional trend of plastics over metals is set to continue. EMR identified this requirement approximately ten years ago and decided to invest in MBA Polymers. Over this period of time, we progressively integrated its activities into the EMR business, but it was not without its challenges; challenges highlighted by the unfortunate failure of a number of indigenous plastic recycling businesses. 

However, the outlook for MBA Polymers is positive and it continues to deliver a fundamental recycling performance that allows EMR to reach the required ELV recycling & recovery targets. 

Our investment in the recycling & recovery of ELVs has been significant and has totalled over £300m since the introduction of the Directive. Although this investment enables us to achieve the levels prescribed within the Directive, we remain concerned over the loss of ELVs to those outside of the regulated sector. 

This loss serves to undermine those that operate compliantly and creates an uneven playing field, giving a commercial advantage to those that operate illegally. The consequence is that the necessary investment required to manage and process increasingly complex ELVs may be further constrained.  

In order to create an equal market that exists to encourage and reward further innovation and investment, we believe that the impending review of the current ELV Directive provides an ideal opportunity to influence future policies. The provision of clear and stable guidelines would create an environment that has the ability to deliver value across the entire ELV supply chain. 

There are a number of changes that we would like to see implemented in respect of ELV management: 

  • Appropriate financial incentives for the last holder to deliver a vehicle to an Authorised Treatment Facility in exchange for a Certificate of Destruction (CoD)
  • A clear and effective system to distinguish and identify used cars from ELVs, so that conflicting loopholes cannot be exploited in their management
  • An improvement in the information exchange regarding the fate of temporary de-registered vehicles, so as not to obviate the genuine numbers of ELVs
  • Work with the insurance industry to ensure that total loss vehicles are classified as ELVs and should be directed towards an ATF
  • Tackling illegal online sales of valuable spare parts from ELVs extracted from unauthorised facilities

If acted upon, this should reduce the leakage of ELVs outside of the regulated sector and facilitate their flow into authorised facilities. It should also create positive behavioural changes in a vehicle’s last owner and provide incentivised and easily accessible processes for accessing ATFs.  

We also believe that there should be a minimum target for post-consumer plastics in new cars to generate and grow demand for recycled plastics from ELVs. There is a clear and achievable opportunity to move away from the existing linear supply chain, into a circular system, by recycling plastics derived from ELVs back into new production. This is achievable today, but its growth is being halted without binding targets for the use of recycled plastics.

At EMR, we invest heavily to develop our own technologies in our quest to be the global leader in the provision of sustainable materials. We are preparing ourselves for the transition to an electrified fleet of vehicles and have already designed our plans to ensure that we maintain our current levels of recycling and recovery performances. This will require the development and application of new processes and further investment, but we are confident that we will be well placed to continue to exceed the expectations of our many customers across the ELV sector.


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