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Help needed to meet EU car recovery targets: industry

LONDON (Reuters) – The European Union’s target to recover 95 percent of all materials used in cars by 2015 is achievable but will depend on new technologies and services, according to the car and scrap metal industries.
“At the moment 85 percent is more or less achievable, but going from 85 to 95 is a bit of a jump,” one metals recycler said.

“It is all about having the technologies to recover the plastics and the rubber or use them as fuel,” the recycler told Reuters recently.

The end-of-life vehicle (ELV) directive went into force in 2000 to deal with the 8-to-9 million tons of waste generated annually from scrapped cars in Europe.

By 2015, 85 percent of the materials in a scrapped car must be reusable or recycled and 95 percent of them must be recovered. This figure is up from a total recovery target of 85 percent in 2006.

Most metals, including copper, steel and lead — which is found in car batteries — have been recovered for some time.

It is materials like rubber and plastic that pose the recycling problem, and it has fallen to metal recyclers, who typically receive scrapped cars, to deal with it.

“The car manufacturers should be responsible (to reach the EU targets) — but a lot of the responsibilities seem to have been passed onto our sector for meeting the targets,” said Peter Brookes, director of United Kingdom-based recycler Metal and Waste Recycling Ltd.

“All vehicles end up coming to metal recycling yards for handling, de-pollution and then shredding … and anything that cannot be recycled ends up in our waste stream.”

Technologies to mechanically sort the plastics and other light materials out of the waste stream are not sufficient.

“The plastics recycling industry in the UK is mainly about plastic bottles … so it isn’t just a matter of getting the material out of the post-shredder stream — it is a matter of finding a market for the material,” the costs firmly with the metal recyclers,” said Lindsay Millington, director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA).

Brookes of Metal and Waste Recycling said it would help if car manufacturers developed a recycling route for the plastics and funded more research into how to best sort and recycle these materials.

Britain fell short of the 2006 medium-term target, getting

a reuse, recycling and recovery rate of 83.53 percent, up from an estimated rate of 81 percent in 2005, an industry source said.

“If the material was burned in a waste-to-energy power station we could recover the energy and that would count toward the target,” Brookes said.

Currently, Britain has no waste-to-energy infrastructure to handle toxic car waste.

Many EU countries give subsidies to the recycling industry or have programs in which new automobile buyers must pay a contribution toward car recycling. However in the United Kingdom, the commercial market must deal with the recovery of material.

“The way the end-of-life vehicle directive has been implemented in the UK has left all the responsibility and all the costs firmly with the metal recyclers,” said Lindsay Millington, director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA).

Renault has changed some of its designs and materials to try to meet the recyclables target, but the French car manufacturer said it is not enough.

“We have introduced recyclable plastics in our cars, but it is not sufficient,” said Jean-Philippe Hermine, responsible for implementation of the ELV directive at Renault.

“We have to help the recycler to develop plastics that can enter their processes,” Hermine said.

by Anna Stablum, Reuters