Select Committee on Trade and Industry First Report


The Trade & Industry Committee has agreed to the following Report:—



1. The End of Life Vehicles (ELV) Directive governs the final disposal of cars. It came into force on 21 October 2000.[1] All Member States must transpose the Directive into national law by 21 April 2002. In July 2001 we decided to hold a short inquiry into the impact of the End of Life Vehicles Directive in the UK. We heard oral evidence on 23 October 2001 from the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF), the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), the Motor Vehicle Dismantlers' Association (MVDA) and officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). We are grateful for all the evidence we received.

Historical background

2. The issue of disposing of vehicles has been under discussion for some time. In the early 1990s, the European Commission set up a study group to look into concerns that discarded motor vehicles were a significant source of waste and that, because of changes in the composition of vehicles, pollution from that waste was increasing. In July 1997, a draft Directive on End of Life Vehicles was published. In the same month, the relevant industries in the UK signed a Voluntary Agreement to increase the recovery and re-use rates of vehicles to 95% by weight by 2015; the same timetable and level as stipulated in the draft Directive.

3. The draft Directive did not have an easy passage. Recognising potential problem areas the DTI undertook formal consultation on the proposal in January 1998. The 35 respondents (from industry, car clubs, environmental groups and trade associations) raised a number of concerns. These were summarised in an Explanatory Memorandum to Parliament by the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Competition and Consumer Affairs:[2]

    "... there was considerable concern about the effect of the costs of the Directive on low volume manufacturers[3];

    "a certificate of destruction was generally welcomed but there was some concern about exactly how it would work;

    "there were mixed responses on the issue of free take-back. Again there was concern about exactly how this would work;

    "some responses were in favour of ending registered exemptions from waste management licensing, others thought that licensing would raise costs for dismantlers without proportionate environmental benefit."

4. These concerns were raised by the UK at meetings of Council working groups throughout 1998 and in the Environment Council itself in October 1998. Negotiations continued at official level throughout the UK, Austrian and German Presidencies, with a view to agreeing a text at the Environment Council meeting under the German Presidency in March 1999. During this time, a number of significant amendments were proposed by the Council working groups, very few of which were accepted by the Commission.[4] The German Government also came under heavy pressure from its car industry to amend the text further. Consideration of the Directive was postponed from the March Council meeting to the June Environment Council but no further progress was made. The Directive was finally further amended to leave an unusually high degree of discretion to Member States both over how they implemented the vehicle recovery scheme, and on whom the costs would fall.

The main provisions of the End of Life Vehicles Directive

5. According to its preamble, the End of Life Vehicles Directive is intended to minimise the impact of discarded motor vehicles on the environment and to ensure that the functioning of the internal market is not distorted by variations in disposal requirements. The Directive uses two approaches to waste: prevention and treatment. It contains lists of banned materials and of permitted maximum concentrations of substances that will apply to all new vehicles. Most of the Directive concentrates on the establishment of a system for collecting, breaking up, treating and disposing of vehicles. The system is based on the transfer of vehicles to Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs), which alone will be permitted to issue a Certificate of Destruction (CoD) to the owner or end user of the vehicle. Only on production of a Certificate of Destruction may the car be deregistered. The Directive lays down in detail the operations which must be carried out by the treatment establishment before the vehicle is shredded. Stripping and storage operations must be carried out in such a way as to ensure that vehicle components may, wherever possible, be recovered and recycled or reused. The Directive also prohibits components containing particularly toxic materials (lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium) from being shredded and disposed of in landfill or by incineration.

6. The main provisions of the ELV Directive:

Although the ELV Directive is an environmental one, in this inquiry we have focussed on the economic impact of the Directive and have not considered the environmental requirements in any detail.

7. In August 2001 the DTI published a consultation paper on the implementation of the ELV Directive in the UK.[6] We return to the consultation paper later.[7]

1   Directive 2000/53/EC dated 18 September 2000 Back

2   Other concerns were also voiced but some of these are no longer relevant, for example about subsidiarity, the need for legislation as opposed to voluntary agreements, amendments to the list of banned/restricted heavy metals to reflect the fact that the use of some of these materials was unavoidable, and the application to two- and three-wheeled as well as four-wheeled vehicles Back

3   The Directive was later amended to exempt manufacturers who produce fewer than 500 vehicles per annum from some provisions of the Directive including the requirements to meet recyclability standards and publish information about the design of their vehicles (DTI consultation paper para 5.1). Paragraph 10 of the Directive states "Vintage cars" are not covered by the Directive Back

4   For example, the omission of motorcycles and the exemption of three-wheeled vehicles from most of the provisions; some significant adjustments were made to the list of banned heavy metals in response to industry pleas that there were no practicable alternative materials; and the provisions on transition periods for older vehicles were lightened Back

5   Shredders use mincing machines to tear the vehicles into small fragments Back

6   Directive 2000/53/EC on End of Life Vehicles: UK Government Consultation Paper. The closing date of the consultation was 2 November 2001 (hereafter referred to as DTI consultation paper) Back

7   See paragraph 42 below Back

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Prepared 6 December 2001