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

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Tackling illegal ELV breakers

tfsThere has been a growth in crime associated with ELVs, either through illegal exports or the sale of parts from illegal dismantling. Following on from the article on exports in the ATF Professional July publication, Rich Cloke from the Environment Agency describes some of the work underway to combat illegal ELV breakers.


To properly dismantle a vehicle and dispose of the hazardous waste generated is costly. Avoiding doing this properly increases the risk of fires, significantly undercuts legitimate operators and creates an opportunity for illegal waste disposal with all its detrimental effects on the environment. 

The Environment Agency receives hundreds of complaints of illegal waste sites each year and investigates all serious allegations. In the 2017/18 tax year, we stopped 264 illegal ELV sites and are currently investigating a further 126. The action we take against illegal sites varies depending on factors like the scale of activity, environmental impact and the attitude of the offender. Some of these sites have become legitimate operations, some have ceased trading and some have received formal enforcement action, including prosecution where appropriate.

We have also recently been given extra powers to combat illegal waste sites, these include physically blocking yards and seizing vehicles and we can also confiscate unlawfully made profits.  

The growth in online marketplaces has created new challenges for us in dealing with unlicensed vehicle breakers.  Although an environmental permit is required to depollute and dismantle vehicles, a permit is not required to just sell used car parts that are in working order.  There are a number of businesses that specialise in selling second-hand parts but do not dismantle or break vehicles themselves. This, along with the anonymity that many sales platforms offer makes our work to identify and investigate illegal operators more challenging.

The Environment Agency has focussed on working with eBay as the biggest online marketplace. Business sellers who list used vehicle parts now receive a pop up message to highlight that an environmental permit is needed to break vehicles and direct them where they can get further information.  If you use eBay to sell used parts commercially, you should be using a business account and display your environmental permit number (or the permit number of the site where you source the parts you are selling) to ensure buyers know you are complying with the law.

We’re also running a trial on Facebay to contact people looking for MoT failures and vehicles for metal recycling. We’ll evaluate the impact this project has and look to use what we learn as best practice elsewhere in the country.

If a business or individual wants to receive waste vehicles for recycling or for dismantling parts, they must apply for an environmental permit. They can do this online at They may also need to register with their local authority under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act. Applying for a permit is straight forward, but the applicant must be able to demonstrate they are competent. It is likely the site will need to be adapted to make it secure and prevent pollution from escaping. Specialist equipment is also recommended to ensure full de-pollution of the vehicle and to prevent the risk of fire and spillages. 

If you suspect someone is operating illegally, you can report it directly to us (0800 80 70 60) or anonymously to Crimestoppers (0800 555 111). Criminals undercut the industry and put the environment and people at risk. 

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