Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of MRW, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Feature: Death of a scrap man?

The absence of a vicious, snarling dog baring its fangs may not have been what bureaucrats in Brussels were hitting at when they drew up the End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) Directive, but according to one Yorkshire vehicle recycler, it's just one positive result of the legislation.

"The ELV Directive has got rid of the guard dog-on-a-chain yards," says Babington Car Spares partner Leon Parrish.

He adds: "Our customers now include young single mums and old-age pensioners, people who might normally have felt uncomfortable coming to a breaker's yard."

Certainly, the traditional home for UK vehicle recycling doesn't occupy a cosy space in the minds of the public. The celluloid portrayal, especially in 60s gangster films, of muddy yards with scrapped cars piled high generally tends to be the backdrop to criminal activity. Legitimate traders were, unfairly, tarred with the same brush as seedier enterprises.

However, according to Parrish, European legislation requiring firms to invest tens of thousands of pounds in specialised equipment has meant the industry taking on a friendlier face.

"This legislation was overdue in terms of introducing standards to our industry," agrees British Vehicle Salvage Federation (BVSF) chairman Alan Greenouff.

The ELV regulations came into force in November 2003, and meant that those wishing to recycle old bangers had to apply to the Environment Agency (EA) to become an Approved Treatment Facility (ATF). ATFs have to remove all substances that could possibly contaminate the metals, the main material of the car to be sold on. This includes brake fluid, oil, petrol, batteries and tyres.

While in theory under the law this could all be done by hand with limited tools, in practice the most efficient way of doing this is to use a depollution rig that, depending on the model, costs around £30,000. On top of this expense, all ELVs must be stored on a non-permeable surface, in most cases concrete. "Depending on the acreage of the site, the cost of concreting your yard could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds," says Greenouff.

Not surprisingly, there have been those that have decided not to bother. Greenouff says: "Before this legislation there were around 3,500 salvage firms. Of those I'd say 1,000 will become ATFs".

This prediction may be worrying for the EA, which predicts that there will need to be 1,200 ATFs to sufficiently deal with the two million cars that reach the end of the road each year in the UK. At present there are roughly 200 ATFs operating in the UK.

It is the steep price of becoming an ATF that has proved prohibitive for many, says Greenouff: "I'm not sure what those who do not register as ATFs will do. Some might continue to buy and sell cars that haven't been classified as ELVs, but a number will say: 'Is it worth it?'

"Even in the last few days I've had somebody say to me he has had enough. These are family businesses, and the land their properties sit on is their investment.

They might as well make some money selling it on to property investors and go off and live in the sun."

As well as family businesses, a sizeable chunk of the 3,500 salvage firms that Greenouff mentioned were no more than one-man operations. As this letter to Vehicle Salvage Professional from last year shows, paying £30,000 for a depollution rig, plus another £30,000 for concreting their premises just wasn't an option for some small traders: "I ceased trading last year," writes RVS Autoparts ex-

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.