Automotive Industry: Vehicle Recycling and Its Impact On the Environment - Part 1 of 5
Introduction to our 5 part series on Vehicle Recycling
Each year in Europe end-of-life vehicles create 8-9 tonnes of waste which must be
dealt with effectively. The EU’s end-of-life vehicles directive requires that at least
85% of the materials by weight are reused or recovered; this includes 5% energy
recovery. By 2015 this target will increase to 95% to include 10% energy recovery.
End-of-life vehicle waste is becoming a priority issue for the European Commission,
and a recent study looked at the cost of landfill, advanced thermal treatment and
the incineration of waste from vehicle recycling factories, as well as the profitabilty
of factories run under strict gudielines set out by their directives.
There are a variety of different materials used in vehicle manufacture which all pose
different problems in recycling. The introduction of electric vehicles and the use of
lithium batteries and rare earth materials has introduced further recycling
requirements which the industry must endeavor to meet.
Current recycling trends
Once dismantlers have removed reusable and hazardous parts from end-of-life
vehicles, the hulks of the stripped vehicles are sold to recycling factories to be
shredded. Around 20-25% of the weight of the vehicle is classed as automobile
shredder residue (ASR); this is the non-metal waste from the process of shredding,
consisting of plastics, wood, rubbers, fibrous materials and textiles. The EU
estimates that 1.93-2.34 million tonnes of ASR are generated each year, and most
of it will end up in landfill.
The EU aims to encourage recycling factories to dispose of ASR either in advanced
thermal treatment (ATT) plants or municipal solid waste incinerators (MSWI). The
study showed that factories can best be persuaded to meet legislative targets when the cost of disposing ASR in landfill is high, above €115 per tonne, and when the cost of disposal at an advanced thermal treatment plant is lower, less than €92 per
tonne. With the intention of meeting recycling targets for 2015, the EU study
recommends that these prices should remain, and the cost of disposal in a
municipal solid waste incinerator should be less than €85 per tonne.
The study also pointed to future post-shredding technologies which have the
potential to reduce or eliminate the disposal of ASR in landfill.
This article is part of the Vehicle Recycling series.