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Auto Recycling Information - Drive Smart

As you know our car breakers dismantle vehicles removing all the valuable parts for re-sale. Just in case you are interested in some of the history of the parts and where the vehicles are obtained from, we have put together below some interesting facts on auto recycling in the UK. There were around 30 million motor vehicles in use within the UK in 2002. Every year, approximately 2 million new vehicles are registered and a similar number are used for auto recycling, or in common terms, scrapped. The average lifespan of a car is 13.5 years. In the year 2000, just over 2 million cars and vans reached the end of their useful lives, either because of old age or due to an accident. The composition of a typical car has changed substantially in recent years. For example, ferrous metal content has decreased significantly as lighter; more fuel-efficient materials such as plastics are incorporated into vehicle designs. An analysis of vehicle manufacturer data for around seventy popular 1998 car models shows the following breakdown of materials (by weight).

Source: ACORD, Annual Report, 2001

Over 50 million tyres (just over 480,000 tonnes) were scrapped in the UK in 2001 and around 80,000 tonnes were disposed of in landfill. It is estimated that up to 50% of the 20,000 tonnes of oil removed from vehicles by motorists is handled improperly. If oil finds its way into sewers and water courses it can cause significant contamination – One litre of waste oil is sufficient to contaminate one million litres of water and oil poured onto the ground will affect soil fertility.

When disposed of in landfill sites, tyres in large volumes can cause instability by rising to the surface of the site, affecting its long term settlement and therefore posing problems for future use and land reclamation. Rubber materials contain proportions of organic chemicals and little is known about the long-term leaching effects of these materials.

It is estimated that around 13 million stockpiled cars are currently being held in dumps with the number of tyres being illegally dumped increasing. It is thought that higher charges levied on producers for legal disposal, coupled with generation of more waste tyres because of stringent tread requirements are key causes of this. Recently, problems have arisen with collectors who are paid to collect and remove tyres for recycling purposes and who then merely dump or store the tyres with no intention of recycling them. Illegal disposal of tyres is seen as a serious offence with possible imprisonment and unlimited fines.

The auto recycling of parts and the reclamation of materials from motor vehicles is not a new industry. Metal parts in particular have for a long time had a value, either in terms of re-use or recycling. Nowadays there are many parts that can be recycled, from the oil and its filter to plastic bumpers.

When a car reaches the end of its useful life it is usually sold to a vehicle dismantler. The dismantler will remove parts that can be sold for re-use, remove the potentially environmentally polluting materials such as operating fluids and batteries, and then sell the hulk on to a shredding operation. Shredders are high capacity hammer mills that break the hulk in to fist-sized parts. Ferrous metals are then removed by magnetic separation and non-ferrous metals are sorted both mechanically and by hand. The proportion of ELVs currently recycled is much greater than any other consumer product; even so, around 408,000 tonnes of remaining material is buried in landfill sites each year. This material is mainly made up of plastics, rubber, glass, dirt, carpet fibres and seat foam.

How can you help in recycling?

  • Walk, cycle, go by public transport and use cars as little as possible. These options have many other environmental and health benefits as well!
  • Car share, even if only part of the way and occasionally, to reduce congestion, pollution and cost.
  • Drive at speeds not exceeding 50 - 60mph. This not only reduces wear on tyres and makes them last longer but gives fuel savings as well.
  • Drive smoothly at constant speed where conditions allow. Harsh acceleration or braking cause increased wear on tyres and other parts of the vehicle.
  • Keep tyre pressures to recommended levels to ensure even wear. Under-pressured tyres can have fuel implications, increase tyre wear and are generally dangerous.
  • Change up to a higher gear as soon as traffic conditions allow.
  • Recycle your old oil and batteries at local authority recycling sites
  • If replacing your car, choose a more fuel efficient one than at present.
  • Buy retread tyres.
  • Don't use tyres below the legal tread limit - it is dangerous, and the tyres cannot be retreaded if over-used.
  • Look out for products made from scrapped tyres, e.g. porous hosepipes, carpet underlay, pencil cases etc.
  • If you have no further use for your car - take it to a registered scrap yard or contact your local council. Your Trading Standards office will provide a list of registered scrapyards and vehicle dismantlers who will dispose of the car in the most environmentally sound way - there are around 4000 of these across the country. Many councils will take your car away for nothing or a relatively modest charge - typically £20-£50 - although there may be a wait for collection. You may get little or nothing for your clunker, but if it runs, has relatively new tyres or other parts that can be removed and sold, then you might get a few pounds for it.
  • Inform the DVLA that you have passed your vehicle to an Authorised Treatment Facility (registered scrapyard) by completing the section on your registration document for disposal to a motor trader. If you have a car or light van you should receive a Certificate of Destruction from the scrap dealer, who will pass the information to DVLA for the vehicle record to be closed. You may still wish to ensure that DVLA are informed by completing the "scrapped" box on the registration certificate.

The European Union End-of Life Vehicles (ELV) Directive

The End-of-Life Vehicles Directive (2000/53/EC) came into force on 21 October 2000 and Member States should have enacted legislation to comply with the Directive by 21 April 2002. The Directive will require EU Member States (including the UK) to:
What does the law say? Ensure that all ELVs are only treated by authorised dismantlers

  • Provide free take-back of all ELVs for new vehicles put on the market after 2002; from 2007 provide free take-back for all vehicles including those put on market before 2002
  • Restrict the use of heavy metals in vehicles from July 2003
  • Ensure that a minimum of 85% of vehicles are re-used or recovered (including energy recovery) and at least 80% must be re-used or recycled from 2006, increasing to a 95% re-used or recovered (including energy recovery) and 85% re-used or recycled by 2015

It also requires the 'de-pollution' of vehicles before being recycled. This involves extracting petrol, diesel, brake fluid, engine oil, antifreeze, batteries, airbags, mercury-bearing components and catalysts.

Improvements required

In a report reviewing industry performance during 2000, the Automotive Consortium on Recycling and Disposal (ACORD) stated that the total recovery rate for vehicles scrapped in the UK is currently 80% (69% materials recycled and 11% parts re-used). The report also outlined some of the areas that will require improvements in order to meet the 85% recycling rate by 2006. These include:

  • Increased plastics recovery through better separation processes
  • Development of applications/markets for recycled plastics
  • Increased recovery of fluids by more effective de-pollution
  • Improved tyre recovery processes
  • Initiation of other rubber recovery processes
  • Reduction of residual metallic content of shredder residue
  • Initiation of glass recovery processes
  • Development of energy recovery processes for automotive shredder residues (ASR)
  • Development post-shredder material recovery processes


EU Landfill Directive

The Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) became law in July 2001. This states that whole tyres must be banned from landfill by no later than 2003, and shredded tyres no later than 2006. Some UK landfills may however escape the ban until 2007 when they are brought under the new pollution prevention and control regime. Because thousands of landfills need permitting under the directive, the Environment Agency will phase this work over 2002-2007. For more information on ELV legislation see our legislation affecting waste and recycling information sheet available on Waste Online.

Waste Incineration Directive

This requires that cement kilns, which use tyres as a secondary fuel, must comply with more stringent air emission limits that currently apply to other types of facilities. New dry kilns have until 2006 to comply. Old wet kilns have until 2008. This may impact current operations and further development.

These changes in legislation will obviously place increased pressure on the industry to find alternative uses for scrap tyres, and government ministers have suggested that if the 100% recovery/recycling rate are not met, they may be forced to legislate for compliance.

Useful contacts

Department of Trade and Industry 151 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SS Renewable Energy Enquiries: 01235 432450 Recycling Policy Section: 020 7215 1860 Waste Strategy Division: 020 7944 3000 The Environment Agency (EA) t 08708 506 506 Information on the End-of-Life Vehicles Directive and the Agency's regulatory role (see the section entitled Waste).
The Environment Agency Oil Care Campaign Search by postcode for local oil recycling collection points. Car Recycling Information about how cars are dismantled, depolluted and recycled and a useful search facility to find local dismantlers, recyclers and salvage sites.
Trade Associations - general
British Plastics Federation Environment Team, 6 Bath Place, Rivington Street, London EC2A 3JE t 020 7457 5000 Represents the interests of the plastics industry. British Metals Recycling Association 16 High Street, Brampton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 4TU t 01480 455249 Trade body for the metals recycling industry.
British Vehicle Salvage Federation Bates Business Centre, Church Road, Harold Wood, Romford, Essex RM3 0DR t 01708 340485 Represents the insurance industry-linked accident-damaged/repairable vehicle resale market. CARE (Consortium for Automotive Recycling) Peter Stokes, c/o VW Group, Yeomans Drive, Blakelands, MK14 5AN t 0709 205 1113 Initiative examining the technical and financial issues involved with ELV and material recycling.
Motor Vehicle Dismantlers Association of Great Britain 33 Market Street, Lichfield, Staffs, WS13 6LA t 01543 254254 Represents UK vehicle dismantlers. Oil Recycling Association 62 Lower Street, Stansted, Essex, CM24 8LR t 01279 814035 Represents the interests of the oil recovery, recycling and re-use industries.
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited (SMMT) Forbes House, Halkin Street, London, SW1X 7DS t 020 7235 7000 Multi-industry/Government initiative to provide strategy for improving ELV disposal.

Trade Associations - Tyres
British Rubber Manufacturers' Association 6 Bath Place, Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3JE t 020 7457 5040 Fax: 020 7972 9008 European Tyre Recycling Association 7 rue Leroux, 75116 Paris, France t 00 33 1 4500 3777
Imported Tyre Manufacturers Association 5a Pindock Mews, London W9 2PY t 020 7289 1043 Represents the interests of international tyre manufacturers. National Tyre Distributors Association Elsinore House, Buckingham Street, Aylesbury, Bucks, HP20 2NQ t 0870 900 0600 f 0870 900 0610
Plastics and Rubber Advisory Service/British Plastics Federation 6 Bath Place, Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3JE t 09061 90 80 70 (£1.50 per minute) Retread Manufacturers Association 2nd Floor, Federation House, Station Road, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, ST4 2TJ t 01782 417 777 www.retreaders For details of retread manufacturers and suppliers.
Tyre Industry Council 6 Bath Place, Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3JE t 020 7734 6363 f 020 7437 7966 Used Tyre Working Group Environment Directorate 151 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9SS t 020 7215 1860 Information on Government scrap tyre recovery policy and a search facility for locating tyre collectors and reprocessors.


OSS Group
Stockpit Road, Knowsley Industrial Park, Knowsley,
Merseyside, L33 7TQ
t 0870 2401055
Manufactures Envirol recycled lubricating oil.

Waste Tyre Solutions
Bede House, St Cuthberts Way, Aycliffe Industrial Park
Newton Aycliffe, DL5 6DX
t 01325 379020
f 01325 379036

Useful publications

End Of Life Vehicles
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), April 2000
Available via the internet at:

Fourth Annual Report 2001 (Reporting 2000 Performance)
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Ltd, Automotive Consortium on Recycling and Disposal (ACORD), 2001

Glass Recycling: An Automotive Perspective
Consortium for Automotive Recycling (CARE), February 1999
Available via the internet at:

Recovery options for plastic parts from end-of-life vehicles - an eco-efficiency assessment
Summary Report by Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe (APME), 2003
Available via the internet at

The Impact of Tyres on the Environment
The Environment Agency
Available via the internet

Tyre Recycling
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), January 2001.
Available via the internet at:

Opportunities and Barriers to Scrap Tyre Recycling
S Ogilvie, 1994, Produced by AEA Technology, National Environmental Technology Centre, Culham, Abingdon, Oxon.