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UK – Latest figures show ELV target still a challenge

The department for business, innovation and skills has admitted the target set by the European Union for it to recycle, recovery or reuse 85% of end-of-life vehicles is a “real challenge”, after issuing figures revealing that the UK again narrowly missed the goal in 2008.

While the 84.98% figure for 2008 means the UK practically met the target and has continued to improve its performance, it also means that the rate increased by less than 2% over a three-year period, with an 84.23% rate achieved in 2007 and 83.53% recorded in 2006.

Both the quantity and percentage of vehicles treated within the ELV system increased in 2008, but was still short of European targets

The data, which was submitted by the department for business, innovation and skills (BIS) to the European Commission on June 30 2010, reveals that 1,210,294 ELVs were recovered in 2008 – 71,798 more than was the case in 2007 – with a total weight of 1,175,195 tonnes.

And, despite the rate remaining below 85%, a spokeswoman for BIS was positive about the figures for 2008, telling “BIS considers that good progress has been made, with a significant increase in the number of vehicles reported in 2008 than in 2007, as well as an increase in the tonnage of material recovered above and beyond the percentage achieved in 2007.”

The department noted that, based purely on the reuse, recycling and recovery rate prescribed by the Commission, the UK actually only achieved an 84% rate in 2008, but it explained that, as in previous years, it had included fuel recovery to record the 84.98% figure – something which is the subject of an “outstanding query” with the Commission.

Traditionally, efforts to increase ELV recycling rates have been hampered by the difficulty in recovering the non-metallic 25% of a car that is left after an ELV is shredded. Concerns have been expressed in the past that the UK lacks post-shredder capacity to recovery plastics, glass and other non-metal components.

The size of the task was acknowledged by the BIS spokeswoman, who labelled the 85% target a “real challenge”, explaining that the activities undertaken by vehicle dismantlers, or Authorised Treatment Facilities, were generally not enough to reach an 85% goal and as such further separation of materials post-shredding was “critical”.

She claimed that shredders were continuing to invest “significantly” in recovering post-shredder residue and sending less material to landfill, explaining that: “Glass is now routinely recycled and an increasing focus is being placed on plastics. As these technologies come to the fore, more capacity will become available, which has already grown strongly year-on-year.”
Among the most high-profile movers to address the post-shredder, or automotive shredder, residue issue has been the metals recycling giant EMR, which has put forward proposals in the past 12 months to build two large scale facilities – on Merseyside and in the West Midlands – specifically aimed at dealing with the waste stream.

The significance of the issue also prompted the British Metals Recycling Association to issue a call in November 2009 for the government to introduce a landfill tax relief scheme to encourage metals recyclers to invest in the technology needed to increase ELV recovery rates.

The announcements made by companies developing shredder residue separation technologies were welcomed by BIS, which added that it “continues to engage closely with all parties involved in the ELV chain and has been encouraging obligated parties and service providers to increase reuse, recovery and recycling in recognition of the growing challenge ahead”.
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The 85% recovery goal currently in place could potentially increase to 95% from 2015, although this is subject to review by the European Commission.

It is understood that a number of other EU countries have, in the past, also fallen short of the 85% target, and the European Commission has taken no formal action against the UK for failing to reach the goal, although the spokeswoman did reveal that the UK had responded “some time ago” to an informal request from the Commission over its performance in 2006.

By Nick Mann,