06 November 2010

Aluminium Recycling Directive

Time Schedule for the ELV Directive

New directives are coming into place that will force manufacturers of products to be responsible for their ultimate disposal. The automobile industry is also subject to these new rules in the form of the ELV (End-of-Life Vehicle) directive. (Ref. Directive 2000/53/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council)

It can be seen from the time schedule that from the 1st January 2006 material recovery from old cars should be more than 85% with more than 80% recycled. The equivalent figures in 2015 are 95% and 85% respectively.

Compared to steel, aluminium is reported to be more recycle friendly and through recycling the value loss from material loss and money value loss is only 22% for aluminium compared to 50% for steel.

Given that automobile manufactures are going to become responsible for the disposal of old cars and if it is accepted that the previous statement on costs is correct, then it is fairly clear that this factor provides an incentive to make more components out of aluminium.

Further considerations for aluminium are that:
  • recycling saves up to 95% of the energy used to produce primary aluminium. 
  • recycling is self supporting by the high value of the material through the recycling loop.
  • the quality of the metal does not deteriorate however many times it is recycled.
  • advanced sorting and recovery techniques are beginning to allow scrap to be suitable for use as primary products such as extrusion ingots and sheet ingots.
These considerations tend to suggest that there is a future potential to use recycled rather than primary aluminium and that this may (by no means definite) lead to reduced costs for aluminium components.

This coupled with the legislative requirements to dispose of old cars through recycling adds even further to the incentive towards the use of aluminium, provided these factors come to fruition, in the future. This is especially true when it is considered that every year end of life vehicles in the community generate between 8 & 9 million tonnes of waste as reported in the 'Directive 2000/53/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council' document.

Ref. P Vigeland (2001)

The information about the European 'End of Life' directive has come mainly from a report by P Vigeland who is the Vice President of Recycling and R&D for Hydro Aluminium rolled products and as such it's possible there is a potential for bias in his report towards the benefits and ease with which aluminium can be re-cycled. However it has been attempted to pick out what is believed to be the factual information from his report rather than theoretical figures which may be misleading, but the onus here is on the reader to asses what they believe to be true.

In any case the underlying principle behind the European directive is that 'the polluter pays' and given the level of waste being produced on a yearly basis and that the responsibility for disposing of that waste is coming back to the doors of automobile manufacturers, this is a factor that definitely needs to be taken seriously.

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