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End-of-Life Vehicle Recycling in Developing Countries

NUMFOR Solange Ayuni, a Ph.D. student in Environmental and Energy Economics at Tohoku University, Japan, and Geoffrey Barongo OMOSA, a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, provided Auto Recycling World with an overview of the situation and challenges regarding end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) recycling in developing countries and what opportunities there are to be made.

Developing countries mostly import second-hand vehicles from developed countries. The low-income level is a major factor in this case. Although these second-hand vehicles are imported in developing countries, they are considered ELVs in developed countries even before their exportation.

When these second-hand vehicles are used in developing countries for undetermined periods, they become very much worn out upon reaching the end of their useful life. Considering the 3Rs (Reuse, Remanufacture and Recycle), these ELVs only have a few reusable components, and a bulk of them require recycling.

A few new cars are also imported to developing countries. In addition, developing countries such as South Africa and India have vehicle assembling plants, while others like Malaysia and Mexico have vehicle manufacturing plants. However, the new cars assembled and manufactured are mostly exported to developed countries.

ELV recycling has become a priority in most developed countries; it has become an important source of secondary materials for use in industry and a means of reducing waste to the environment. Developing countries, on the other hand, are very much lacking when it comes to ELV recycling.

ELV recycling is a major challenge in most developing countries, including Kenya, wherein these vehicles are stockpiled at police station yards. In Cameroon and Nigeria, ELVs are abandoned on the streets, construction sites, backyards, and other areas. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) also stressed that it was vital to work towards establishing a circular economy by promoting recycling and recycling industries in developing countries due to the many serious waste management system challenges and pressures faced by developing countries.

Unlike developing countries with little or no regulation on ELVs, most developed countries have well-established regulations on ELV management and recycling. The European Union (EU) Directive 2000/53/EC (End-of-Life Vehicle Directive) was published to promote environmentally friendly management of ELVs in the EU. Some EU member states, including Sweden and the Netherlands, have made significant advances in implementing ELV recycling following the Directive.

The laws pertaining to ELV recycling determine the activities undertaken in each country. For example, the first ELV law passed in Japan in 2005 requires end-users to pay necessary fees and surrender ELVs for recycling. And in 2007, the ELV recycling law was passed in South Korea, which requires manufacturers to provide technical support and develop recycling technologies. Developing countries are, however, lacking in terms of ELV policy formulation and implementation.

ELV recycling steps include collection, depollution, dismantling, shredding, recycling, and disposal of untreatable residue. These steps are greatly encouraged in most developed countries. In Africa and other developing countries, the large informal sector, composed of scavengers and local garage operators, scavenge parts from abandoned ELVs. Their improper practice leads to oil spills and leaching of other hazardous substances to the environment. Proper ELV recycling or reprocessing steps are unenforced and uncoordinated. And there is a low level of awareness that is also regarded as a major factor. In addition, the lack of vehicle deregistration is another factor impeding the collection of ELVs in developing countries.

A SWOT analysis was conducted to identify the challenges and opportunities of recycling ELVs in developing countries. SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis allows for a detailed understanding of ELV recycling status in developing countries. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors, while opportunities and threats are external factors. The challenges were reflected in the weaknesses and threats, and the opportunities were reflected in the strengths and opportunities.

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