ELV – End of Life Vehicles

The Directive on End of Life Vehicles aims to prevent “waste from vehicles and their components so as to reduce the disposal of waste, as well as at the improvement in the environmental performance of all of the economic operators involved in the life cycle of vehicles and especially the operators directly involved in the treatment of end of life vehicles.”

The treatment of end of life vehicles is particularly important as it amounts to between 8 and 9 million tonnes of waste within the European Community every year. The directive is based on the polluter pays principle and so the treatment of end of life vehicles must be paid for by the producer, with no cost being incurred by the user. It is intended to encourage the “design of vehicles for recycling and recovery” and to avoid waste wherever possible. It states that the “requirements for dismantling, reuse and recycling of end of life vehicles and their components should be integrated in the design and production of new vehicles…in such a way as to allow the quantified targets…to be achieved.” The Directive also restricts the use of some hazardous substances in the manufacture of vehicles and calls upon manufacturers to design out hazardous materials from the materials initial conception. “Lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium should…only be used in certain applications [where their removal or replacement is not practical or beneficial].” “This will help to ensure that certain materials and components do not become shredder residues, and are not incinerated or disposed of in landfills.”

The Directive applies to all motor vehicles with the exception of motorcycles and motor-tricycles, and of “vintage vehicles [that are] of value to collectors or intended for museums, [so long as they are] kept in a proper and environmentally sound manner.”

The preferred methods of disposal for end of life vehicles and their components are reuse and recycling. In order to make this possible, vehicle and component manufacturers must make dismantling information available to authorised treatment facilities within 6 months of a product being released on the market. It is also stated that manufacturers of vehicles and components should “integrate an increasing quantity of recycled material in vehicles and other products, in order to create a market for recycled materials.” The targets for rates of recovery, reuse and recycling are as stated in the table below:

Target Date Recovery Rate / % by average vehicle weight Reuse and Recycling Rate / % by average vehicle weight
1st January 2006 85 80
75 70
1st January 2015 95 85

Laws and penalties will be introduced by member states for non-compliance with the Directive, and the short timescale of the targets gives vehicle and component manufacturers a strong motive for rapidly improving the environmental impacts of their products in order to minimise the expense of treatment and avoid the penalties and bad publicity that may result of non-compliance.