For us end-of-life vehicle (ELV) scrap yards, the thought of potentially needing to remove the glass and plastic from cars before they are shredded seems impossible. The Government, with legislation from the EU, is thinking about recycling 95% of scrap cars from 2015. But there are not many end-markets for these materials, so we have no buyers at the end of all our hard work stripping the materials out.
If we had to start doing this now, we would end up putting the separated materials into landfill, which costs money. The other option is to leave it on the car, as we do at the moment, which costs nothing. Personally, I doubt the target will come into law. The UK already recycles cars to the current 85% target, so why can they not leave it at that?
In the past, I have tried to take plastic and glass off cars, but when we find plastic recyclers that might be able to take the materials, they say it is contaminated and cannot take it. I do understand when reprocessors tell us the reason for the poor material quality is because we put it in with other materials and store it outside in all weathers - but we do not have limitless space at the yard and there is nowhere to keep this material under cover. The glass is also difficult to recycle because it contains laminate, so it cannot go through the normal glass recycling routes.
So what is the solution?
At the yard, we take out the fluids, take off the shock absorbers and send the rest of the car to the shredder. At the moment, we get paid for the upholstery and bumpers because the car gets shredded together. But if the Government wants us to strip the whole car, we will end up having to charge the general public to scrap their cars instead of offering them money for the material.
This is because separating out the materials is such a time-consuming process. Currently, we put the car up a ramp and it takes 20 minutes to de-pollute it. Once we have de-polluted everything and taken off the engine and aluminium, we make about £40 a car. So, if we then have to start stripping a car completely, it will take two guys almost a whole day to do it, and there is no way we will be able to pay the owner the current going rate of £120 a car.
It will take a huge amount of time and money to correctly take a car apart and hit the 95% target. I guarantee that it will put me out of business because it just would not be financially viable. So it looks as though it will put more money in the cowboys’ hands because they will not bother playing by the rules and probably will not get caught.
We do not have a shredder - the big recyclers such as EMR and Sims have the shredders. We wouldn’t buy one because the yard is not big enough, and this is the case for most yards. I believe that if the 95% target is brought in, a lot of companies will end up fly-tipping the glass and upholstery because there may still be no end markets for the materials and they will no longer be allowed to landfill it because, by law, it should be recycled.
The Government should leave regulations as they are until a suitable and big enough end market is in place before they make us recycle these materials. At the moment, no-one wants the material because it has no value. But, at the same time, it will cost us a huge amount to rip it all out of the vehicle.
It is good that the Government hopes to achieve such high recycling rates. But it should wait until the technology to use the materials is available and can be rolled out on a commercial scale.
Are you a scrap merchant with an issue to raise? Contact Tiffany Holland on 020 7728 4534 or email email@example.com. All contributors to MRW’s scrap panel will be anonymous.