Artemis Hatzi-Hull, who is synonymous with the ELV directive, has recently announced her retirement. We caught up with her to reflect on her involvement with the directive, discuss her legacy, and find out her plans for the future.
Artemis, can you please supply a history of how you came about being involved with the ELV directive and what has been your primary role with it?
Environmental issues have always been at the top of my agenda. I wrote my graduate thesis in 1992 on EU environmental policy when environmental legislation was in its infancy. I was lucky to join the Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment in 2006 as the primary person overseeing all waste stream directives (ELV, WEEE, Batteries and Packaging), and I was responsible for the EU study on plastic waste, which was the basis for the Plastics Strategy.
When I joined DG ENV, the ELV Directive was still relatively new at the time, as it had been adopted in 2000, and Member States had until 2007 to apply all provisions (for example, regarding the collection of ELVs and their transportation to ATFs). There were questions from the industry and the national administrations asking for clarifications, and no one was dedicated to the ELV Directive, therefore, I was brought in. Later on, in 2008, the first reports on ELV targets were submitted, and there were many misunderstandings. I proposed to set up a working group with the participation of the Commission (DG ENV and Eurostat), the industry and the national experts. We had four meetings in two years and a study on shredder campaigns to clarify the reporting. With collaboration across all parties, we were able to make this initiative a success, and thus my journey as the ELV person in DG ENV commenced.
With the initial directive, what do you consider to have been its most significant impact?
There are three obvious achievements: no more abandoned ELVs, sharp and impressive reduction in the use of the four banned hazardous substances in the vehicles, and meeting the high reuse/recycling/recovery targets set in the Directive. The ELV Directive is a successful and early example of a circular economy, and I look forward to seeing its future evolutions.
As you walk away from the directive, what would you like to think would be your legacy when it comes to ELVs in Europe?
I am proud to have brought all the actors to the table to find the best ambitious yet practical solutions for implementing the Directive. When I first got involved, it was a fragmented landscape: recyclers, in particular independent recyclers, had no contact with the manufacturers, and national experts were sceptical about implementing the Directive. With the launch of the working group in 2008, we got to know one another and work with each other. I built many connections within this network and have visited numerous facilities to see how the cars are being processed, from manufacturing through to dismantling, scrapping, and processing through the shredder. I learned a lot from working with experts throughout the supply chain, particularly when it comes to all the technical issues that I was not aware of as a lawyer previously confined to the office, and my industry colleagues appreciated my efforts to understand their work and challenges.
Experiences such as these brought us all together and enabled a common understanding among all the players, which was crucial for the successful implementation of the Directive.
This initiative was one of the first instances of close collaboration across multiple stakeholder groups, particularly the industry and the DG ENV, and I hope that one of my legacies will be the increased collaboration with different stakeholder groups, such as industry, in future Directives.
With all of your experience and knowledge, what do you think will be the challenges for auto recyclers as the industry heads further into the 21st century?
I can see that cars are changing – but consumers’ attitudes are also changing. Right now, we have more EVs, hybrids, and – in the future – hydrogen cars. More plastic and electronics are being used in manufacturing, which presents challenges not only to recycling but also to the capability of recyclers to have access to the parts that are often controlled by computers.
However, the very way we use cars may be changing. Young consumers are increasingly lowering their car usage, with many not even owning a car or embracing a shared economy lifestyle. This could lead to a dramatic drop in the production of cars, yet an increase in the cost of cars and the adoption of car-sharing models. It will be interesting to see how these conflicting trends impact the industry in the future, or even what that future may look like.
What changes in attitude have you noticed amongst the directive’s stakeholders over the years?
Nobody likes more legislation for their product. It generates more work and administrative tasks, increases responsibilities, calls for investments in management and in research, and can generally be a challenge. When the ELV Directive was first adopted, key stakeholders across the supply chain were not happy and were vocal with their criticism. Over time, and with the success of the Directive, car manufacturers have more environmentally friendly cars without hazardous substances; recyclers have state-of-the-art recycling technologies in facilities with environmental standards; consumers can find cheaper parts for their cars. Today, stakeholders consider the ELV Directive as successful legislation – a testament to the hard work and efforts of many and the increased collaboration across all.
I imagine that you will enjoy a holiday upon your retirement, but after a well-deserved break, what are your plans? Will it be a case of farewell to the Directive but not to ELVs?
My retirement comes just after a long, challenging period with the pandemic, and it certainly calls for some time off. Summer also helps. However, it is difficult to say farewell to the ELV Directive. My three colleagues in the Commission who are leading the review now may have questions, and I promised I would be available. I am also interested in continuing to be involved as I know the Directive fairly well, and the review procedure. However, specifics may wait a while as I enjoy the summer holidays with my family in Greece.