The European Commission published the evaluation of the end-of-life vehicles on the 15th March – the first part of the on-going ELV Directive review.
The EU’s rules on end-of-life vehicles aim to:
- make dismantling, recycling and reusing these vehicles more environmentally friendly
- push manufacturers to create new vehicles without hazardous substances so that their parts can later be reused.
- This evaluation assesses how well the EU’s rules are working and whether they deliver the expected benefits for the environment, the public and industry.
In the Commission Staff Working Document – the Executive Summary of the Evaluation of Directive (EC) 2000/53 of 18 September 2000 on end-of-life vehicles, it states that the Directive has never been substantially amended since its adoption 20 years ago. And that it aims at minimising the impact of end-of-life vehicles on the environment.
The ELV Directive sets out restrictions on the use of hazardous substances in new cars, obligations relating to the collection and treatment of ELV, and targets by 2015 for re-use/recovery and re-use/recycling.
Each year, around 11 million vehicles leave the stock of registered vehicles in the EU, representing a potential 11 million tonnes of waste. The majority of waste from ELVs consists of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, with a growing share of plastic waste and electronic waste, reflecting the increasing use of lightweight materials and electronics in new cars.
These new materials and components present specific challenges for their recovery and recycling from ELVs. The growing number of electric vehicles in the EU market will further contribute to this trend and bring considerable new challenges for the ELV sector. The measures adopted to mitigate the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on the automotive industry are also likely to accelerate the electric mobility transition.
The evaluation of the ELV Directive takes this evolving context into account, as well as the direction set out by the European Green Deal, which is reflected in the EU Circular Economy Action Plan and the recently adopted EU legislation on the waste framework directive and other waste streams.
The evaluation looked at the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence relevance, and EU added value of the ELV Directive in line with the EU better regulation principles.
The evaluation shows that the ELV Directive has been effective in delivering many of its initial objectives (notably elimination of hazardous substances from cars, increase in collection points for end-of-life vehicles, attainment of the recovery and recycling targets). However, the major problem in the implementation of the Directive is the large number of “missing vehicles”, which represent about 35% of all de-registered vehicles each year.
While around 6.5 million ELVs are reported to be treated according to the ELV Directive, approximately 4 million vehicles annually remain of unknown whereabouts, with a risk that a great proportion of them are not treated according to the requirements of the ELV Directive when they reach the end of their life. The flaws in the national vehicle registration systems, the lack of interconnection between the Member States on registration and de-registration of vehicles, and illegal treatment and export of ELVs appear to be the main reasons for this problem.
The evaluation also concludes that the provisions of the ELV Directive encouraging the design of new vehicles to facilitate their dismantling and recycling, as well as the use of recycled materials, are not sufficiently detailed, specific and measurable, and as such, had a very limited impact on the design and manufacturing of new vehicles. The provisions requiring car producers to make available and share information on the materials and components contained in vehicles have been criticised for being insufficient to help companies properly in the repair, dismantling and recycling sectors performing their activities.
Concerning the targets for re-use/recovery and re-use/recycling, most Member States reported that they have been met. The different options available for reporting on the attainment of the targets means that their quality varies across Member States, which questions the comparability of the different Member States’ achievements.
In addition, the calculation is based on the overall weight of vehicles, which does not provide an incentive to recycle materials beyond metal waste, and results in suboptimal recovery and recycling of glass, plastics or critical raw materials. The fact that the definition of recycling is broader than in the rest of EU legislation and includes backfilling and the absence of separate target for “re-use” are other shortcomings of the ELV Directive.
It is generally considered that the total benefits of the Directive outweigh its costs. The environmental benefits are linked to the safe treatment of ELVs, which avoid leakage of pollutants into the environment.
There is no evidence nor claims that the ELV Directive has a negative impact on the competitiveness of the automotive industry within the EU.
The distribution of costs associated with the ELV Directive implementation is an issue with diverging views across the various stakeholders. There is notably no definitive data on companies’ profitability (mostly SMEs) from the dismantling sector, even though available information seems to show that their economic situation is generally fragile (which has been exposed during the COVID-19 crisis).
There is no evidence of unnecessary regulatory burden or costs stemming from the ELV Directive.
The scope of the ELV Directive leaves out a stock of about 45 million vehicles (such as motorcycles and trucks), which are not subject to any specific provisions concerning how they should be treated at the end of their life.
The ELV Directive is not suited to ensure a high level of recovery and recycling of increasingly used valuable materials, such as gold, silver, palladium, tantalum and other rare earth metals, contained in the electric and electronic components. This is also the case for plastics or carbon-reinforced plastics.
An important challenge for the ELV Directive today is to ensure better coherence with the European Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan, notably in the eco-design of vehicles to facilitate re-use, remanufacturing and recycling, the promotion of more ambitious and specific targets for reuse and recycling, and the use of recycled content materials in the manufacturing of vehicles.
The evaluation also looks into the coherence of the ELV Directive with the EU policies on climate change and against air pollution, which are driving changes in the manufacturing of vehicles and accelerating the transition of the sector to electric models.
The most important economic benefits of the ELV Directive have been to help to consolidate the vehicle dismantling and recycling sector in the EU Member States and providing the consumers with the possibility to dispose of their ELV free of charge.
Unlike other waste stream specific legislation, there is no fully extended producer responsibility system established by the ELV Directive, meaning that the role played by producers in financing the costs of ELV management remains unclear.
The link with the future EU legislation on batteries is critical to ensure complementarity in the recycling of batteries and its link with other parts and components in vehicles.
Finally, better coherence is needed with the EU legislations on vehicle registration, as well as on car type-approval.
EU added value
The EU-added value of the Directive, in addition to harmonising environmental requirements, lies notably in the establishment of an EU framework, which ensured the smooth operation of the internal market for the automotive sector at large and avoided distortions of competition in the EU.
The elements presented in the ELV Directive evaluation will feed into the review of the ELV Directive, which is expected to result in a legislative proposal in 2022.
To read the full evaluation go to ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation