Commission, industry clash on EU car recycling

Car manufacturers express "very deep problems" with "provocative" end-of-life vehicle proposal

A furious row has broken out between car manufacturers and the European Commission over a proposal to reduce the environmental impact of old cars.

Speaking at a conference on car recycling and recovery in Brussels on Tuesday, a senior car industry representative described the Commission's proposal as "provocative" and likely to cause "very deep problems" for motor manufacturers. A Commission official vigorously defended the draft directive, bluntly stating that the voluntary agreements preferred by industry didn't work.

After several years of discussion with car manufacturers, the Commission presented a draft directive on end-of-life vehicles in July, aimed at placing the ultimate responsibility for disposing of cars on producers (ENDS Daily 9 July). Against the wishes of industry, the proposal lays down mandatory targets for the recovery and recycling of old cars across Europe.

The Commission official responsible for the proposal, Marco Onida, told industry delegates that he would have preferred a "much stricter proposal for hazardous materials". In earlier versions of the proposal, the Commission's environment directorate had proposed a ban on the use of PVC in cars, but this was removed in the final text.

Mr Onida criticised the national agreements currently in force in 8 EU countries as unclear, unenforceable and as constituting a potential barrier to free trade. Furthermore, added the official, "none of the agreements agree with European Commission guidelines on environmental agreements" published last December.

In reply, John Hollis of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), described the Commission's proposal as "contentious" and "provocative". Accusing the Commission of ignoring the advice of an industry/Commission expert group on end-of-life vehicles, Mr Hollis said the institution had "shattered the previous consensus" between the two sides and had resorted to "old-fashioned confrontation techniques" which were "demotivating to both member state and industry actions".

ACEA has not hidden its opposition to key features of the proposal (ENDS Daily 21 July). However, the strength of its new criticisms suggests that car manufacturers are stepping up their fight against the draft directive. One industry representative told ENDS Daily that car makers were trying to build a coalition of manufacturers, distributors, recyclers and shredders to kill off the proposal.

Whether they will succeed remains unclear. Speaking at the conference, Lennart Scharff of the European Group of Automotive Recycling Associations (EGARA) suggested that car dismantlers would prefer a directive to voluntary agreements and were "not unhappy with the proposal".

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel + 32 2 295 1111; European Automobile Manufacturers Association, tel: + 32 2 732 5550; EGARA, tel: +31 73 641 0075.

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