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IARC 24

Driving Towards Sustainability: An Inside Look at the Spanish Federation of Recovery and Recycling (FER)

The Spanish Federation of Recovery and Recycling (FER) is an organization that represents the recycling, collecting, and treatment plants of a variety of waste flows, including scrap metal, tires, and end-of-life vehicles (ELVs). FER is crucial in achieving the objectives marked by the European Commission as shredders and post-shredder facilities are necessary to sort and remove the complex mixture of materials in ELVs. In this conversation, Alicia Garcia Franco Zúñiga, the General Director at FER, discusses the role FER plays for Spanish auto recyclers and how they are addressing the current and potential challenges facing automobile recycling. The conversation also touches on FER’s readiness for the recycling of electric vehicles on European roads and the organization’s solutions to meet the increasing demand for sustainable recycling.

 

Driving Towards Sustainability: An Inside Look at the Spanish Federation of Recovery and Recycling (FER) p
Alicia Garcia Franco Zúñiga

The Spanish Federation of Recovery and Recycling (FER) and its significance for Spanish auto recyclers

Our federation represents reuse, collectors and treatment plants of a large variety of waste flows, including, metal scrap, ferrous non-ferrous, tyres and WEEE. Regarding end-of-life vehicles (ELVs), 100% of shredder facilities and post-shredder plants (also several cars dismantlers), our recyclers can treat close to 730,000 waste vehicles.

Shredders and post-shredder facilities are crucial for the objectives marked by the European Commission. The vehicle is a complex mixture of materials and substances, requiring highly advanced technologies to remove and sort these materials after the depollution step. Without these plants, the “circular economy is not going to happen”.

The importance of a strong recycling network in representing partners at a high level

Having a high level of recycling plant members in any association is crucial for the effective representation of the industry and its interests. This is especially important when it comes to the complex challenges surrounding the recycling of end-of-life vehicles (ELVs), which require specialized knowledge and expertise. By bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders, including recycling plants, collectors, and treatment facilities, associations like the Spanish Federation of Recovery and Recycling (FER) can foster a robust and consolidated position on key issues related to ELV recycling. This can help to ensure that the industry is well-equipped to comply with evolving environmental regulations and best practices. Moreover, a strong and open market for ELV treatment can be established, ensuring that all stakeholders are able to participate and show their position. Ultimately, this collaborative approach can help to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry, while promoting the responsible and effective recycling of ELVs.

Addressing challenges in automobile recycling: FER’s efforts to overcome current and potential issues

The treatment of ELVs is perfectly regulated by the legislation, and it’s the perfect example of a circular economy, which has been well implemented since the beginning (ELV Directive 2000). We can improve the actual systems of this waste, but, in our opinion, ELVs are the best or one of the best waste flows collected and treated in Spain and in the European Union.

We are at a crucial point. The new European Regulation is coming, and this matter may change the rules and the well-regulated market for the treatment of ELVs.  The draft of this regulation is not yet published, but we have several proposals to improve the management chain, which include:

  • Minimum recycled content target for plastic in new vehicles, to achieve a real circular economy.
  • Better ecodesign.
  • Free and fair compensation. It must be emphasized that a fully-fledged extended producer responsibility scheme (EPR) must be taken with extreme care, as it could also be damaging to European dismantlers and shredders. If vehicle producers have full power exactly over where finances are provided, it would destroy the competitiveness of many market stakeholders currently involved in dismantling and shredding operations.
  • We need to increase energy recovery capacity. There is a lack of energy recovery capacity in Europe for non-recyclable materials, particularly in Spain.

FER’s Readiness for Recycling of the Growing Number of Electric Vehicles on European Roads

A number of initiatives are currently underway to support safe and effective waste management practices. As part of these efforts, training programs have been developed to educate individuals on the safe removal and storage of waste batteries from electric vehicles. FER has created a range of brochures on this topic for its members. In addition, specific webinars are being offered to help prevent battery-related fires. To facilitate the recycling process, we recommend utilizing the International Dismantling Information System platform (IDIS), which provides manufacturer-compiled treatment information for ELVs, including battery removal. It is important to note that in Spain, training for handling these batteries is subject to regulation.

FER’s Recycling Solutions in High Demand as Importance of Recycling for a Sustainable Future Gains Recognition

We believe that the future of ELV and waste management presents new challenges that must be addressed. These include developing methods to detect, remove, and sort plastics in different polymers. Additionally, there is a need to improve the collection, storage, and recycling of lithium batteries from WEEE and ELV. Another challenge is the regulation of raw critical materials, with ongoing efforts to establish specific European regulations that could impact waste flows like ELV, particularly in relation to neodymium magnets used in electric engines. We also recognize the importance of helping to shape new legislation and standards to promote more sustainable waste management practices.

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