Approximately 500,000 end of life vehicles (ELVs) are taken off our streets each year, never to see the roads again.
But what happens to all that tired metal and redundant parts? What new strategies are being taken to ensure that cars are ethically and environmentally retired rather than just ending up in landfill?
Data from the Auto Parts Recyclers Association of Australia (APRAA) suggests that 100,000 tonnes of waste from ELVs is generated annually. While the metal can typically be recovered, elements such as plastics, computer and synethetics have traditionally wound up in the scrap heap.
South Korea is currently a world leader in recycling ELVs, thanks largely to legislation introduced in 2008 in the Act for Resource Recycling of Electrical/Electronic Equipment and Vehicles.
Currently, there is a power plant operating in Korea that converts shredder residue into energy, while enhanced separation pilot schemes are also in place to allow more materials to be reused.
But it seems Australia is falling behind the 8-ball when it comes to ELVs, according to APRAA executive director David Nolan.
“Australia seriously lags the rest of the industrialised world in managing its vehicle waste stream,” Mr Nolan said.
“Out of 750,000 ELVs a year, it would be lucky if 250,000 were depolluted in an environmentally appropriate manner”
“We are simply shredding the vehicles and all of the shredder residue which contains all of those [harmful] elements… ends up in landfill.”
The biggest stumbling block for Australia appears to the lack of government enforcement that is currently happening globally, but it is thought that change is on the way.
Certification organisation NSF International launched its Australian, New Zealand Automotive Recycler Certification Program in April this year, which in turn will ensure that recycle meet certain grading, labeling, and traceability requirements.
Rob Bartlett of National Partners and Industry, Motor Claims at Suncorp Insurance said this certification would improve the supply chain of recycled auto parts.
“Independent, third-party certification has the potential to add significant value to the professional automotive recyclers who do things right, and provides for an alternative parts supply chain,” he said.
New legislation and certification will be required for Australia to improve its global ranking when it comes to recycling ELVs. The work of countries around the world show that significant environmental change is possible if government, manufacturers, and businesses commit to improvement.
The pragmatic work of countries around the world proves that significant environmental change is possible if governments, manufacturers, and businesses commit to improvement.
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The new challenges of recycling obsolete cars.