Driving recovery levels up for ELV compliance

Insufficient recycling and reuse of non-metallic components is hindering UK compliance with the end-of-life vehicles directive. LAWR looks at what's being done to address this

The end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) directive places a significant burden on vehicle manufacturers, with recycling and energy recovery targets for ELVs of 85% by 2006 and 95% by 2015. This is further compounded in the automotive and electronics sectors by the restrictions in the landfill directive, the WEEE directive and the RoHS directive.

Many of the components used by manufacturers are out-sourced – the manufacturers then assemble them to produce the finished product. This has the effect of pushing the responsibility of compliance with the ELVs and RoHS directives from manufacturers to tier 1 suppliers while still demanding high reliability specifications and lower prices.

Supply chain affected

The implications of these policies move along the supply chain in both directions, from the manufacturers to raw material and component manufacturers, and also from the manufacturers through the consumers to the dismantlers/recyclers.

Vehicles are composed of metals, plastics, composites, glass, rubber, foams, various boards for stiffening, electronics and electrical components, fuels, oils and batteries. However, the projected potential recovery of those materials in 2006 is a lot less than hoped for, particularly in the case of plastics.

In the UK, over 2.5 million cars become ELV statistics each year. This figure also includes accident write-offs and abandoned vehicles. Assuming that each car weighs approximately 1.5 tonnes, 3.75 million tonnes of waste material is available for reuse every year in the UK alone.

Metallic vehicle components are already effectively recycled, but most plastic and composite components are shredded and sent to landfill and their use is likely to increase from the present level (of about 10% by weight) to meet the parallel environmental push in the automotive sector towards lightweight, fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles.

To meet the legislative targets, the technological and economic barriers of recycling and reuse of non-metallic components need to be addressed. There is considerable academic activity in the UK on recycling, and a number of networks and programmes whose activities impinge to a varying extent on recycling and designing vehicles with dismantling and reuse of materials in mind.

A joined-up approach

However, there is a lack of synergy between these strands of research and much work has been undertaken without close co-ordination between different areas of the supply chain. There is therefore an opportunity for closer links between research and emerging industrial priorities.

One such link is DRIVENet, one of seven networks funded in the ‘Sustainable use of materials’ programme launched by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council. Oxford Brookes University leads the network which aims to promote the exchange of ideas between industry sectors, from designers to dismantlers to academics.

It also seeks to engage with those working in all areas of the life of the vehicle to foster discussion to address strategies in vehicle design, recycling and reuse, and to provide a forum for sharing and developing best practice.

Mapping out a plan

One development to come out of the network is a road map that highlights key areas of concern. Among these is the need for more effective training and education in materials for sustainable design, and more effective use of life cycle analysis. There is also a need to develop better joining and separation techniques, both during assembly and dismantling at the end of life, and also during repair.

The network will endeavour to incubate ideas and research proposals to aid design of materials/components that can be cost-effectively assembled and disassembled, providing an attractive road vehicle when new, and a set of materials/components that can be recycled or reused at the end-of-life.

· ELV ’06, a two-day conference on the challenges and response of industry to the ELV directive, will be held at the University of Warwick from 20 – 21 September. The event will focus on the progress being made in the automotive industry to reduce the deficit in recovery and recycling of materials. For details, go to www.drivenet.org.uk

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