Disposing of Vehicles in the UK

Currently there are over 30 million cars and other types of motor vehicle in use in the UK. Every year around 2 million new vehicles are registered with a similar number being scrapped and recycled. With the average lifespan of a car being 14 years it has been necessary to set regulations in place for what should happen to a vehicle at the end of its useful life.

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There are a number of possible reasons why a vehicle could need to be scrapped. The car may have been badly damaged in a collision, have failed its MOT, be no longer cost effective to repair or may simply be no longer wanted. Whatever the reason it is important that the vehicle is disposed of according to a set process and in-line with current environmental standards and regulations.

In the UK regulations for disposing of vehicles are set out by the DVLA and the Environment Agency mot cancellations. Traditionally cars were broken up for spare parts with the remains being crushed and melted down. This changed with an EU directive introduced in 2000 that was designed to increase vehicle recycling and minimise the environmental impact of disposal. This EU directive became part of UK law in 2003.

Current regulations state that all vehicle disposals should be carried out by authorised dismantlers. It also requires the ‘de-pollution’ of cars before they are recycled. De-pollution involves emptying fuel, brake fluid, engine oil and anti-freeze as well as removing other items including batteries, airbags, catalysts and mercury-bearing components. The current aim is for 80% of vehicles to be reused or recycled with this figure rising to 85% of vehicles by 2015.

Disposing and recycling your vehicle according to these standards has many environmental benefits. For example, estimates state that as much as half of the 20,000 tonnes of oil removed from vehicles by motorists is handled improperly. Any oil that leaks into rivers or streams can cause contamination. As little as one litre of waste oil is enough to contaminate one million litres of oil and oil poured onto the ground can affect soil fertility.

In the UK anyone who has a vehicle they wish to dispose of is now required to go to an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF). An ATF is a scrap dealer or vehicle dismantler who is licensed to recycle and scrap vehicles. Every ATF will have the facilities necessary to de-pollute vehicles and remove items for recycling. When handing their vehicle over to be scrapped the ATF will hand over a Certificate of Destruction. This certificate is used as proof that the car has been taken off the road and has been destroyed. The Certificate of Destruction is needed when cancelling road tax and vehicle registration.