Artemis Hatzi-Hull, Directorate-General Environment for the European Commission was interviewed on behalf of the FORS association on the 18th September, Vehicle Recycler’s Day and which coincided with the day that marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive to talk about how far the Directive has come and where it is headed.
Find the interview in full below, or alternatively, please go to FORS, the Poland vehicle recycling association website to view the video
Interview with Artemis Hatzi-Hull – conducted by Łukasz Cioch
Łukasz Cioch: It is my great pleasure to have Mrs Artemis Hatzi-Hull from the Directorate-General for Environment in the European Commission today. Good morning and good evening. Our conference is held virtually every month due to the pandemic. Good morning, Mrs Artemis, once again.
Artemis Hatzi-Hull: Good morning, Lukas.
How are you today?
Excellent, and I hope you are doing well today as well.
I feel very good. I have a list of questions before me which I assume can be quite difficult questions. September 18 is not an ordinary day. It is also the day that marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the most important End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) directive.
You are right; this is the first directive. This directive is important from a global perspective. We are very proud to have adopted this directive.
Looking back, and I have listened to some of the interviews that you have given, and looking at the past 20 years, I would like to talk about the progress made with this directive. The twentieth anniversary is a round anniversary. Looking at this long time, are you satisfied with the goals that have been achieved with this directive? Have the objectives of this directive been fully achieved? How do you judge it?
You said it yourself that this directive was adopted 20 years ago, at that time, the challenges we faced were slightly different. So the goals that were valid at that time have been achieved. Targets to clear the environment of abandoned cars, To set re-use and recycling targets and ELV treatment targets, and to deal with hazardous waste. This is how these goals have been fully achieved, and we are very pleased with the operation of this directive. We observe that the recycling rate is very high. We have achieved these very ambitious goals of the ELV Directive. The directive is a great example of a tool that serves the circular economy. Nevertheless, these are the goals that the directive set out 20 years ago. Many things have changed over the past 20 years.
And that’s what I’d like to focus on.
We are aware of these things.
Formally, the committee refers to this directive as 2000/53 / EC. However, in the world of car recyclers, this directive is known as the ELV directive. If you were to tell us about two or three most important aspects of the progress made in the last 20 years, you are most proud of.
I think that I am most proud of the fact that we have managed to achieve these ambitious goals and that these goals have been achieved in most of the Member States. ELV cars are waste. This is very valuable waste – perhaps it is the most valuable waste. We are very proud that all these ambitious goals have been achieved. We are also happy that the directive’s successes have been appreciated all over the world. Many countries copied our solutions. Not only did it create very similar solutions to ours, it simply copied them. And for me, that also shows.
Of course, you are right. So let’s move on to the first question in the very difficult question category. You and other experts from the European Commission estimate that as many as 4,000,000 cars are processed by illegal dismantling stations in the so-called shadow economy. This number seems to be really huge. What is the committee doing in this case?
This is obviously a problem, and we realised it a few years ago. As we looked at what happens to vehicles that are off-balance-weighted and how older technology will affect emissions. We noticed to our surprise that many of these cars were disappearing from our radar. They are being checked out. They are disappearing from the system of the Member States, and we do not know what happens to them next. Tracking these vehicles is not a simple task. Every year, about 40% of these vehicles, or roughly 4,000,000, disappear from sight, but that does not mean that all of them end up in the shadow economy.
There are various reasons for these vehicles disappearing. One reason may be that the car has been deregistered in one Member State and has been re-registered in another Member State because people move and registration systems do not communicate with each other and therefore information is not kept up to date. Of course, we miss many cars, but we cannot assume that all of them are lost in the grey area. We cannot assume that they are being dismantled by an illegal dismantling station. But surely a large number of these vehicles actually end up in the shadow economy. They can also be unlawfully processed by legal entities.
You mentioned that re-registration in another Member State could be one of the reasons for the disappearance of some of these 4,000,000 vehicles. What steps are being taken to better understand what is happening to these vehicles? Maybe you just need to update the software? For example, creating a coherent system of national and international vehicle registration. Of course, there are no simple recipes, right?
I don’t know much about registration systems. This could be one of the reasons. Another department is responsible for matters relating to the registration systems. We communicate with the environmental departments of the Member States. Registration systems are the domain of the transport departments. At least in most of the Member States. It means that I don’t know very well how they work. I can say that we as the Commission have carried out a targeted study on the implementation of the directive, the results of which were published two years ago. The study looked at this problem.
The study focused on this issue. We know this problem well. In Europe, it was discussed twice in the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. As I said, we conducted this survey and invited representatives of the Member States to participate – the people who are responsible for registration.
The first step we took was educating about the problem, flagging it and asking people responsible for registration systems in the member states to cooperate with us in this regard. There is indeed a platform that all European Union Member States use it to register cars, but we are not members of this organisation, we actually only perform office duties.
As you mentioned, such a platform would facilitate cooperation, but the decision to join the platform depends entirely on the will of the Member States. It also depends on the possibility of cooperation within this platform. However, there is always a but. There may be a need for many changes, many changes that we do not know about today. We are currently reviewing the ELV Directive for its compliance with these latest challenges.
You are just saying that you are evaluating this directive. As far as I understand, you are now in preparation for the evaluation of this directive, right?
The first step is to evaluate the Directive and its effects, and this stage is almost complete. We conducted a survey. An external entity that was commissioned by the commission has completed the study; we published the report of the auditor. But the final step is to publish the Commission’s own report. At the moment, we are preparing working documents. This document will be published by the end of this year. This is the first step of the review.
The evaluation is directed backwards and its aim is to check how the directive has achieved its objectives. And the assessment of gaps, unresolved problems. In this assessment, these missing vehicles emerge as an issue that requires further action.
Is it true that at the evaluation stage, the Commission consults national and local entities operating in the car processing industry, e.g. the association of Polish recyclers? Or is it done at a later stage?
At both stages. We want help from local organisations. Both at the evaluation stage when we look back. We want to consult people who work in this industry because they know the problems best. In the evaluation phase, we ask associations that are important participants, as well as producers or other economic operators, to ask them for the price of what they believe has worked well in the past. We are now in the process of launching the second stage, the impact assessment. This stage is oriented towards the future. At this stage, we are assessing what kind of measures we need to take to make the directive more effective. What kind of changes do we need to make.
We are talking about specific solutions from what I know, one of such organisation, namely the Polish FORS association, has already submitted a proposal for a solution. Can you tell us which of the proposed solutions you consider particularly valuable? Such valuable information that we have received is information, for example, regarding the operation of illegal disassembly stations. Because it is one thing to say that there are illegal operators and it is another thing to present evidence. Claiming that we are not profiting from our investments because of illegal entities that do not comply with the regulations, do not care about the environment and do not bear all these investment costs is one thing, but proving it is another matter. But we must have evidence because without evidence we cannot intervene in the local government and ask that government what you did in the given case. We must provide them with the appropriate evidence, and this is where the associations have the strength and are a very valuable partner. Thanks to information from FORS, we were able to open an investigation.
So it basically looks like a trial. Even some logical conclusions are not enough. Concrete evidence should be provided.
Yes of course. This solution makes sense, right?
Of course. No evidence of what to expect. Different operators say different things, even with these 4,000,000 vehicles, we had to make a lot of effort to correct all the channels through which all these registrations take place and we had to find evidence.
But it’s a very large number true anyway, even looking at it as a percentage.
Yes, that’s a large number. People who read the newspapers have the impression that Europeans are sending their old cars to Africa. We often hear questions about this topic. We often read in the press about it.
If that were the case, the movement in the Mediterranean Sea would intensify strongly, wouldn’t it?
Exactly. This is the problem with these missing vehicles. Part of the problem is due to incorrect re-registrations, and part of the problem is due to illegal exports. Cars that are shipped as used vehicles, but really are cars that have reached the end of their days and should be processed in Europe. Yet another problem is the so-called grey area. So we have many factors influencing this large number of missing vehicles.
Let’s take a look at the production page. New technologies are entering the market, e.g. hybrid vehicles and electric cars. The directive sets the standard recovery rate for ELV spare parts at 85%, while 95% of the materials used to build vehicles should be recovered. From what I hear, a major problem preventing this ambitious goal from being achieved is the common practice of some car manufacturers that prevent the reuse of certain spare parts. This seems to be contrary to the assumptions of the circular economy. Maybe the European Commission has already noticed this problem? Are you currently working on any activities in this area?
Indeed, but I would like to start with the fact that the definition of recycling differs for ELV and for other waste. This alone should be corrected. In addition, we should look at and this should be part of the impact assessment – what is reuse, what is recycling, what is recovery and what is production. It can be assumed that after 20 years of the existence of this directive, the definition should be clarified. Yes, but these definitions do not exist in the legal texts. We need to achieve consistency in terms of the existing definition both under the Waste Directive, which is the overarching directive that regulates all these specific areas, e.g. electronics cars, packaging. We should use consistent definitions in all of these areas. In the meantime, the concept of a closed-cycle economy and the so-called green layout.
The closed-cycle economy is a very important part of the green system. Other measures were also taken, e.g. related to the right to repair. What will we also be looking at as part of the evaluation of the ELV Directive and assess the impact, or for example a plastics strategy which will also be considered in the review. We will look at what percentage of plastic materials should be recovered compulsorily for new cars. There were many new ideas and many new concepts.
Artemis, considering that some manufacturers are developing technologies that limit the possibility of reusing spare parts, eg. by means of electronic interlocks, what measures is the European Commission taking in this regard? Any measures to promote the re-use of spare parts, because that’s one of the main tenets, right?
You are talking about a situation where the disassembly station removes a part and cannot sell it because information about such a part is hidden by the manufacturer, e.g. it is about computers that are equipped in modern cars. If you don’t have certain information, you can’t use this part – that’s what you’re asking, right?
This problem is not only for reused parts, but it can also be an issue for new parts that are in the aftermarket – new aftermarket parts are exactly the same problem. We lack information. We are aware of this situation and we need to look at it and verify whether it is possible to regulate it by states and other entities that deal with the ELV Directive and ELV vehicles. You know the system that already exists. This system was created thanks to the requirements of the ELV directive. This is one of the fruits of the directive. This system should provide information on how to dismantle parts. We need to look at these obligations again and ask car manufacturers to provide all this information to people who sell used and new parts. Because, as I said before, we are now dealing with this new policy – the so-called right to repair. How do I get my car repaired if I don’t have access to parts? Old or new. We are aware of the problem, but these are the things that we will be addressing in the impact assessment review.
This is very good news. There are different ways of implementing the directive by the member states. In Poland, there is a lot of talk about how many cars are processed in the shadow economy. Some are talking about hundreds of thousands of cars a year. Are there any consequences for the Member States if it turns out that these figures are indeed so alarming?
You are asking two things. Implementation must be the same in all Member States because once a directive has been transposed into national law, we verify compliance to check that the directive has been correctly transposed. In the case of Poland, we were faced with problems because it was not done correctly and we started the legal procedure.
Poland was not the first country where we started the legal procedure. If the Polish authorities had not made some changes to the national legislation that implemented the Directive, we would have referred the case to the Court of Justice, as we have done in the past with other Member States.
The ELV Directive has been implemented into national legislation that has been adapted to the European Directive, thus the implementation as such has been improved. This is the first part, how the recipes are implemented. Here again, our role of checking for irregularities and examining the specific evidence comes into play. If we have such evidence, we can initiate an investigation. I would like to say that during one of the meetings in Poland, it seems to me that it was an Agar meeting, where of course FORS was also present, one of the participants had a presentation. I think it was a former police officer in Warsaw.
It was a very interesting presentation and we invited this officer, and she gave her presentation to all Member States during one of the meetings in Brussels. This presentation made a great impression. Therefore, we cannot say that Poland or the Polish authorities did not take any action. They are trying. There may be more or less problems, they can be corrected, but this is true for all Member States. It is not that the reality in other countries is strewn with roses. There are also problems there. One of the things that we signalled for in the missing vehicle study is that we need to influence the Member States to implement the rules better, but enforcement is really in the hands of the Member States. Enforcement is not a factor for which the Commission is responsible. We cannot enforce the directive locally on behalf of the Member States. This work belongs to the national governments.
The ELV directive is undoubtedly a huge success. It helps to protect the environment. I would like to conclude with a positive question that it improves the laws of the Member States. We meet on September 18, the twentieth anniversary of the ELV Directive. I don’t know about you, but I am really impressed with how the industry responded to the pandemic challenges in March 2020 as the whole world shifted to remote work and every aspect of business moved to the internet.
The car recycling forum in Poland is surprised by how smoothly it has transitioned into this new reality, and I now organise monthly online meetings. In fact, we open each such meeting with a greeting, good morning or good evening, because people from Japan, Nigeria, and the United States participate in them, Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain. We all meet, see each other on one screen without any delay, everything runs smoothly and perfectly. Everyone is impressed with how the world is changing, how our industry is changing, all these regulations related to sanitary restrictions related to COVID. As you can see it because you were also so kind and participated in some of these meetings and shared with us very valuable comments on the directive evaluation process. How do you evaluate this spontaneous emigration to the virtual world? How do you assess its course in different countries, on different continents?
These meetings turned out to be a great success. This process works two-way. It was not only me who shared the latest news with you but also learned from you, I learned how your industry has suffered from the pandemic, how do you solve these problems, how does it carry out its tasks via the Internet, how the pandemic has hit industry, even on this personal level. Many people fell ill, many people were not paid. Understanding the impact of the pandemic on your industry was taken into account when the Commission worked on the recovery fund. When we do not have details of how people suffered under these exceptional circumstances. How responsibly the European government can respond. These meetings were very helpful.
It is so surprising because, on the one hand, countries such as Finland, Italy and France have this, but there are distant countries. This remarkable spirit of solidarity has emerged throughout the industry, and we have countries from North America, South America – entities that are directly involved in the industry, industry representatives who participate in these various events and conferences. It seems that the pandemic has intensified the desire to share experience, 2020 is completely different in this respect, even from 2019, would you agree with me?
This is not a surprise to me. Most of the entities in your industry are small and medium-sized enterprises, and even for these regional organisations, it is very difficult for such enterprises to communicate with similar associations in other countries in the world. The situation that has arisen now is a great opportunity to make this contact and understand how this industry works in other countries, see what problems others are facing, whether these other associations also perceive problems in the same way as to how other governments react to whether they have had good experiences with these reactions. Sharing real problems with people from the same industry is very interesting and very useful, if only from the perspective of information exchange.
Yes, that’s interesting. There is not only a video conference but also an actual visit between entities from different countries and on-the-spot exchange of ideas, comparison of practices and legal systems.
I didn’t know about that, of course, because I’m not there, but that’s good news, of course. It’s good for business. It’s not just an information exchange. I am very happy that the results of these meetings are so fruitful. FORS It is a very active organisation. The president of the organisation has very interesting ideas, very original ideas. He is very proactive when it comes to contributing to various tasks.
We’re talking about Adam. I remember such a funny situation during one of the virtual conferences just before Christmas when at the end of the conference we asked the participants a question, I spoke earlier about participants from Japan, Nigeria, Brazil, so the question was asked if we would meet after Christmas and the holidays were only two and a half months. The answer was – let’s meet in a month, it surprised Adam, but it surprised him in this sense, he did not expect such a strong sense of solidarity and willingness to share experiences. This sense of solidarity develops through these conferences.
Now for the last question – a simple question – positive. Last year, when we met during the annual conference organised by FORS, the Polish recycling association agreed that the date of adoption of this directive, that is, September 18th should be celebrated as the international car recycler’s day. In this way, the association would like to promote an industry that contributes to the objectives outlined by the directive, that is, contributes to the protection of the environment by reusing spare parts and reducing waste. Is education and making people aware of waste recycling, or is this type of educational activity a good idea from your perspective?
Educating people is always important. People often don’t even know what to do with their end-of-life vehicles. How to deliver them to a legal disassembly station. They don’t know where to buy used spare parts. They think they can only buy new parts to replace something that broke in the car. I understand that France has now adopted a law that states that customers have the right to choose whether they want to buy a used part or maybe a new part, and this, of course, means that all those parts that can be reused hit the market. Of course, that’s a very good idea. Educating people has always been a great idea, and people need to understand the important role of car dismantling in today’s economy and the closed-cycle economy that we are so excited about.
Hopefully, by the end of the review process of the directive, these educational and awareness-raising programs will be much better developed.
In relation to this, I would like to ask that you continue to be an active participant in our impact assessment – this is very important – this is the most important part that will start soon. An information sheet on the impact assessment will be published in the coming days. This will be posted on the Internet and everyone will have one month to refer to this document and post their comments. After that, the actual work will begin, we will consult interested parties, organise workshops, prepare specific proposals that will serve us in the review of the directive.
We wish you all the best in this process. I would like to thank you once again from the bottom of my heart for your enormous support over the years. For supporting the Polish car recycling association and for your participation in annual conferences, as well as for participating in these online events that are organised. Thank you very much for the interview and good luck in the process of reviewing the directives and thank you for your time.
I would like to thank you for the work you are doing and for inviting me to this meeting today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the directive.
Thank you. The pleasure is all mine. Goodbye.
To watch the interview, visit FORS, the Poland vehicle recycling association website – www.fors.pl