With the combined onslaught of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill and this month's announcement of the end-of-life Vehicles (ELV) regulations 2005, it seems that clapped-out old cars have met their legislative nemesis.
It has, however, proved to be a tangled process getting this far. More than six months of haggling between the Environment Agency (EA) and the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) over shredder residue finally ended this month. Full depollution of all vehicles is now required before they are shredded if the resulting residue is to be accepted at non-hazardous landfill sites. Vehicle recyclers turned their shredders off for six days last July when the ban on co-disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste came into force.
Landfill operators subsequently refused to take waste from the machines as they could not prove whether or not is was hazardous and risked breaking the law. The stalemate finally ended when the EA said that vehicles depolluted to set standards would temporarily count as non-hazardous.
The long awaited ELV regulations, which apply to passenger cars and light vans, state that car manufacturers will in future have to take back cars from consumers and ensure that more of the waste from scrap cars and light vans is recycled rather than landfilled. By 2006 manufacturers and professional importers will have had to put in place collection networks to take back their own brands of vehicles and ensure that value is recovered from 85% of the weight of their ELVs. This will increase to 95% from 2015. From 2007 free take back will be provided to last owners who present their ELVs for scrapping at collection networks.
However, making vehicle manufacturers responsible for the costs of disposing of their own cars has had a mixed reception. Energy Minister Mike O'Brien said that by ensuring more cars and vans are recycled through convenient take-back facilities, the regulations will benefit the environment and "ought to be good news for car owners."
He continued: "The 'own brand' system, which is strongly supported by vehicle manufacturers, introduces the principle of 'producer responsibility', complements existing market arrangements for vehicle dismantling, salvage, shredding, and recycling and provides convenience to the last owner in disposing of their vehicle."
The BMRA believes that the own brand system still means that recyclers will be bearing the majority of costs. As car companies will set up collection networks of approved treatment facilities (ATFs) that are approved by the EA, manufacturers will be able to pick and choose who they want. AFTs that are not in a manufacturers network will not be able to offer free disposal to the public as the they will not have been subsidised by the car companies. BMRA director general Neil Marshall said: "I have no idea why we have to have this stupid system. If we had the right system any AFT could get paid. As it is, the public will be confused because some places will take their car for nothing while others will, quite rightly, charge."
On a rather more positive note, the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill received Parliamentary backing last month. Under the Bill, local authorities will be given the power to remove abandoned cars from the streets immediately and create two new offences to help deal with nuisance parking.
The legislation coincided with Keep Britain Tidy's vehicle amnesty deal and the Government's crackdown on the owners of nuisance vehicles. This approach will see the strengthening of a raft of measures aimed at