Car industry faces urgent recycling challenge

Monday, 26 November 2007


New study shows 3.65 billion tonnes of vehicle scrap will be generated worldwide between now and 2030.

More vehicles will be produced in the next 25 years than in the entire history of the motor industry posing a major worldwide recycling challenge, reveals a new study.

According to researchers at Oxford Brookes University, 3.65 billion tonnes of vehicle scrap will be generated world-wide between now and 2030. That's enough to fill Wembley Stadium more than a thousand times over.

This dramatic increase is attributed to a number of factors such as world population growth, affordability, the desire for replacement vehicles in the developed world and increasing demand in the growing economies of China, India, Russia, Eastern Europe and the rest of the developing world.

It's the first study of its kind to quantify past and future levels of waste generated by the motor industry worldwide and focus on the total amount of waste produced by a vehicle over its whole lifetime - from manufacture, in routine servicing and at the end of life.

The findings show the number of vehicles on the world's roads will increase by 65 per cent to 1.48 billion by 2030 with each vehicle accounting for 1.85 tonnes of waste in its lifetime.

The report calls for new technologies, design approaches and better infrastructures to be developed now so that vehicles can be disassembled into their most basic components to allow increased recycling and reuse.

Currently, around 75 per cent of a motor vehicle is recycled - mainly the metal content. The other 25 per cent that includes the plastics, rubber, glass, fabrics and other materials are generally sent to landfill.

EU legislation states that by 2015, 95 per cent of a motor vehicle must be recycled at the end of its life - another reason why the report calls for new designs for disassembly and enhanced pre-and post-shredder technologies to be developed now.

Professor Allan Hutchinson, from Oxford Brookes University, said: 'Our report shows that the recycling challenge is not a concern for the distant future... it is with us now, and will become even greater with every year that passes.

'How to dispose of vehicles more effectively may not be the most glamorous part of the motor industry, but it may well ultimately be the most important for a sustainable one.

'We believe this work can provide the basis for the extensive research necessary to develop new technologies together with the automotive industry to ensure its obligations can be met in a timely manner.'

The report is entitled 'Whole life vehicle waste streams - a global perspective.' It has been produced by DRIVENet - the UK Network for the design for dismantling, reuse and recycling in road vehicles. This Oxford Brookes University-led network includes motor, engineering and research organisations - www.drivenet.org.uk