Austria to push EU car recycling talks forward

New EU presidency prioritises draft end-of-life vehicles directive, hopes for early agreement

Austria has thrown its weight as incoming EU presidency behind a draft law designed to increase recycling of old cars and improve their recyclability. The measure was proposed by the European Commission last year, but is only now beginning to be scrutinised by the Council of Ministers or the European Parliament. Austria has launched detailed negotiations and hopes to achieve a ministerial common position before its presidency term ends in December.

As proposed by the Commission, the end-of-life vehicles directive would require recycling of scrap cars in the EU to be raised from the current average of 75% to 80% by 2005 and 85% by 2015 (ENDS Daily 9 July 1997). Toxic materials in cars would have to be prevented from entering the waste stream, and car manufacturers would be made responsible for the costs of scrap car recovery and recycling.

At a first Council working group meeting on the directive, the Commission presented its proposal and an initial discussion was held, immediately revealing scope for political controversy. Denmark, for instance, indicated that it would argue for PVC to be added to the list of hazardous materials prohibited from entering the waste stream. This would put pressure on manufacturers to phase out its use in cars.

The issue hit the headlines last year when EU industry commissioner Martin Bangemann rebuffed an attempt by Ritt Bjerregaard, the environment commissioner, to put PVC on the list (ENDS Daily 14 July 1997). Environmental groups are pushing for PVC to be reinstated, and hope to get backing from the European Parliament even if Denmark fails to win support from other EU countries.

On the other hand, southern EU member states and Germany complained that the Commission's recovery and recycling targets were too ambitious, according to sources. Differences between countries also emerged over the issue of producer responsibility for scrap car management. Several countries with significant manufacturing industries expressed reservations, ENDS Daily understands.

Meanwhile, the European car manufacturers' association, Acea, has marked the start of serious EU negotiations over the directive by reiterating its position that that the proposal has serious flaws (ENDS Daily 9 October 1997). The Commission's plan to prevent consumers being charged from 2003 when they return old cars to licensed handlers could "disrupt the free market" and encourage dismantlers to charge exorbitant rates, Acea said yesterday.

A proposed restriction on incineration with energy recovery to 5% of car waste arising by 2005 and 10% by 2010 would hinder the development of new concepts for car lightweighting with knock-on effects on fuel consumption, Acea said. The association also urged a rethink on the plan to eliminate lead from car waste from 2003, saying that it had an important role to play in steel and aluminium alloys.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111; Acea, tel: +32 2 732 5550.

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