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Cherry picking from success stories to bolster ELV Directive

Car recyclers awaiting the EU’s updated End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive will have to be patient. ‘We are still looking at the entire package carefully and haven’t decided anything yet,’ says EU policy officer Jaco Huisman at the International Automobile Recycling Congress in Basel. ‘Industry feedback is being considered,’ he assured delegates.

The new version is likely to apply from early 2023 and Huisman says all options remain on the table. ‘It’s important to note that we are not striking entire ideas, rather we’re cherry picking elements that work best together.’ This approach is likely to resemble the Battery Directive, which was reviewed during 2021 and agreed this year with changes to be introduced during the decade.  

Off the radar

Huisman cites top priorities as being: recycled content targets; restrictions on hazardous materials; harmonised technical requirements for treatment; and minimising uncontrolled disposal in emerging markets. The EU specialist insists ‘intervention is needed’ to ensure used vehicles do not fall off the radar.

The observation sparked a discussion led by panel moderator Willy Tomboy. ‘I wonder what will happen if the 3.7 million “unknown” vehicles currently being exported suddenly turn up at approved sites. Are we sure our shredders are ready to tackle this volume? Doesn’t it sound too good to be true?’

Fellow panellists agreed that there was no easy answer to that big question. US entrepreneur Scott Newell took the audience microphone to chime in. ‘Let’s break it down. There are over 1 400 shredder plants worldwide right now. None is operating to capacity. If by some kind of magic four million cars turn up for dismantling overnight, I’m confident a lot of companies will actually pop open a bottle of champagne!’

Smart cars

Discussing modern car design, some speakers note there is ‘a lot more investigating to do’ when it comes to boosting reuse and the remanufacture of spare parts and components, especially electronics. Printed circuit boards are the backbone of automotive electronics, making up around 40% of the cost of a new car. This is expected to reach 50% by 2030. ‘We need more strategic thinking – both at OEMs and at legislative level,’ Huisman says. ‘We need information first before we start regulatory tools and set ourselves up for failure.’

Swiss best practice

In Switzerland, meanwhile, more than 100 000 ELVs are sent for recycling every year, with up to 85% of each vehicle being recycled. Of this, 70% goes to shredder plants, according to Foundation Auto Recycling Switzerland. Annually, some 70 000 tonnes of scrap iron and steel and 5 000 tonnes of non-ferrous metals are recovered. Around 20% of a scrapped vehicle is left as shredder residue, yielding roughly 20 000 tonnes per annum. 

The IARC event included a tour of Thommen Recycling’s facility near Basel. Besides handling traditional vehicles, the recycler has been treating electric vehicles since 2019. Dismantling the valuable battery packs, weighing up to 600kg, has become standard practice.

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