The European Union’s ELV (end of life vehicle) Directive was introduced on January 1, 2015.
Brian Gist, Sales Director, Metals, with TOMRA Sorting Recycling, explains the effect it is having on the end of life vehicles sector.
What does the revised ELV Directive dictate?
Brian: The revised directive, which affects metal recyclers and vehicle dismantlers, has raised the target combined reuse and recovery rate from 85 per cent to 95 per cent. Eighty-five per cent must be reused or recycled and the additional 10 per cent can be achieved using energy recovery from the combustion of non-recyclable residues. This was not the case with the previous directive.
When was the revised directive’s predecessor implemented?
Brian: The ELV Directive was first passed in 2000, with the aim of all member states incorporating it into national law by 2002. However, due to its complex requirements, the first set of regulations achieving this was not formally introduced in the UK until late 2003.
How does the revised directive relate to other legislation governing ELVs?
Brian: Further ELV legislation includes the End of Life Vehicles (Producer Responsibility) Regulations 2005, covering recycling targets and free take-back for ELVs, and the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007, widening the rules to include waste coaches, buses, motor cycles and goods vehicles.
Who exactly is affected by the new legislation?
Brian: Let´s take the UK as an example. Today, an estimated two million ELVs end up in scrap yards each year, either directly or via a vehicle dismantler.
The directive affects the operators of all 45 shredders currently working on ELVs in the country, plus owners of authorized treatment facilities for cars that have been written off after accidents (premature ELVs) or reached the end of their lives (natural ELVs).
We hear that ELV waste offers considerable potential for material recovery. Can you explain what this means?
Brian: Prior to shredding, the operating fluids are sucked out and valuable components removed. Once the material has been shredded, you are left with a vast amount of automotive shredder residue (ASR). This comprises all the non-metallic elements - glass, fiber, rubber, foam, fluff, grit, wood and plastics. At least half of this contains valuable recoverable material.
The ELV Directive requires metals, plastics, rubber and glass to be separated and recovered, but at TOMRA we argue that wood should be reclaimed too. Perhaps surprisingly, there is a significant amount of this in ASR.
By far the most financially attractive type of ingredient to recover – excluding metals – is plastics. All of these, including black plastics, should be reclaimed before the remaining material is landfilled or used as a fuel, and they can then, of course, count towards the revised ELV Directive’s 95 per cent target.
Achieving a good quality of recovered lightweight material, such as complex aluminum, can be challenging, which is potentially an increasing issue, as modern vehicles contain much more of it than their predecessors. However, state-of-the art sorting technology not only achieves this reclaiming but increases substantially the value of the recovered materials.
Is there an example of the 95 per cent target being achieved?
Brian: Yes, in Germany. That country’s introduction of a zero landfill policy led to the closure of many such sites and heavy investment in energy recovery facilities, especially combined heat and power (CHP) plants. Germany’s housing infrastructure contains a high proportion of apartments, flats and multi-person accommodation, so the CHP plants are integrated with housing complexes, providing heating and power to local communities.
Adding material recovered from ELVs as a fuel for incineration therefore meets the needs of the community and closes the loop on the waste process.
A great deal of thought, time and investment has gone into the systems, ensuring that valuable materials are recovered from the ELV waste stream and infrastructure is in place to meet the 95 per cent target.
Other European countries are very confident in their ability to do likewise, by also using ELV in their CHP plant energy recovery systems.
What can other countries learn from European nations?
Brian: Germany certainly sets an example with its very high reuse, recovery and recycling rates, but these have not been achieved without problems. As landfills closed down, more incinerators were built to take the material and the country now has too many of these.
Operators are therefore reducing their gate fees in a bid to secure a constant supply of the in-feed material they need to keep their incinerators running. These ever-lower costs unfortunately sometimes make incineration a more attractive option than recovery.
There is an important lesson here about getting the balance right for nations such as the UK. We need to bring combined heat and power plants to the country, but also to recover as much of the valuable material from the ELV stream as possible.
What challenges does the industry face?
Brian: There are a number, including ELVs being collected and treated by illegal operators and their unlawful shipping.
The amount of material being reused or illegally exported can only, of course, be estimated, as proper certificates of destruction are not produced for it. That makes calculating the input streams on which future investments in treatment plants and equipment need to be based difficult.
Another challenge is that EU´s ELV Directive is not enforced in the same way by all member states.
Could you summarize the benefits of the ELV Directive in one sentence?
Brian: The revised ELV Directive will deliver a number of advantages, including less material being sent to landfill, much greater emphasis being placed on reclaiming, plus hopefully greater investment going into recovery and CHP facilities.