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Auto industry confident it can meet 95 per cent recycling target Metal recyclers and auto manufacturers prepare to comply with tough new EU targets

By James Murray

The UK auto and recycling sectors are on track to meet demanding new EU targets that came into effect at the start of this month, requiring 95 per cent of end of life vehicles by weight be recycled or recovered.

The new end-of-life vehicle (ELV) directive replaces the previous 85 per cent target with a 95 per cent goal, which requires a minimum of 85 per cent of material be recycled or reused, while the additional 10 per cent can be met by processing unrecyclable materials through waste-to-energy facilities or recovering material such as glass for use in aggregates.

Speaking to BusinessGreen, Ian Hetherington, director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), said the target was extremely ambitious. "It is a significant change and to aim for a 95 per cent target for any end of life consumer good is pretty stupendous," he said, adding that it was likely to be a struggle for the UK to comply with the rules in the first year following their introduction.

However, he added that the country was well positioned to meet the target from next year, putting it well ahead of many other EU member states. "The target will be met and that will be a notable achievement as some other member states will not get there," he said. "We are confident that the massive investment our members have made in new capacity and new technology for processing hard to recycle materials means the target will be met."

Hetherington added that the metal and auto recycling industry had made particularly impressive progress investing in dedicated waste-to-energy facilities capable of processing the six to eight per cent of vehicle materials that are not suitable for recycling.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) also expressed confidence the target would be met. "Over recent years automotive manufacturers have continuously taken steps to ensure that an increasing percentage of material is recycled or re-used," a spokeswoman told BusinessGreen. "The industry has already taken great strides in improving recycling and recovery rates by using recyclable materials, designing new vehicles parts intended for re-use and investing in new recycling technologies. SMMT is confident that the UK automotive industry will be able to achieve the European Union's 95 per cent target for 2015."

However, the new regulations promise to further intensify pressure on auto manufacturers to make ever greater use of recyclable materials.

South Korean manufacturer Kia announced this week that it is already compliant with the 95 per cent target and is now working on new technologies that would allow it to ensure 100 per cent of its cars are recycled.

The company said it had invested in Automobile Resource Regeneration (ARR) centres that work like a production line in reverse, quickly dismantling cars in order to maximise the recycling and reuse of valuable materials.

"Modern cars contain explosive materials to trigger their airbags in an accident and large quantities of environmentally hostile solids and liquids which must all be recycled or disposed of safely," the company said in a statement. "Metal components such as the car body, engine and gearbox are relatively easy to recycle, as is the battery and exhaust catalyst, but plastics and rubbers present a greater challenge. Now only five per cent of a scrapped car is sent to landfill or incinerated without energy recovery.

"Kia has developed an eight-stage dismantling process at its ARR centres to recoup as many materials as possible for re-use while ensuring the few components which cannot be recycled are disposed of with the minimum environmental impact. Once the car to be scrapped has been registered it is taken into an explosives chamber where its airbags are triggered in a spectacular display of pyrotechnics. The car is then pre-treated for scrappage before all fluids are removed. The exterior, interior and powertrain components are systematically removed in sequence and finally the remnants of the car are crushed in a press."