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As End of Life Vehicles (ELV) are defined those old cars and light trucks, whose owners have decided not to use it again and want to deposit permanent signs in order to avoid another addition to the various costs of use. End-of –life vehicles contain many chemicals that can be harmful to our environment either as a source of pollution or as contributants to the build up of ‘greenhouse’ gasses within the Earth’s atmosphere.

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 design. 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

Why bother?

The quantity of used vehicles that are not resold equates to over 2 million tonnes of material to be recovered or disposed of. 1.85 million cars are recycled every year in the UK, and approximately 80% of waste automotive materials (mainly metal) are recycled, with the remainder going to landfill. As car ownership continues to increase it is important that the proportion of each end-of-life vehicle (ELV) being recycled is maximized, so that the environmental impact is reduced.

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.