The end-of-life vehicles regulations require ELVs to be dismantled at one of the 1,400 authorised treatment facilities (ATFs) meeting minimum operating requirements. These sites must issue a Certificate of Destruction (CoD) to the vehicle’s last owner when it is scrapped.
As well as indicating the vehicle has been depolluted and recycled to the regulations’ standards, the certificates also signal the end of the owner’s financial responsibility for that vehicle.
Under the regime the DVLA is notified when a CoD is issued, allowing it to remove the vehicle from the national register. The notifications are also used to calculate the mass of ELVs subject to the recovery and recycling targets that car producers must achieve.
About 2 million cars are scrapped each year, but only 809,131 CoDs were issued in 2006, according to figures from the DVLA.
Five days before the figures were issued, the DVLA issued a different figure of about 850,000 but then opted for the lower figure because it represents when a car was destroyed rather than when a CoD was issued.
The data coincide with a European Parliament report reviewing implementation of the ELVs Directive across Europe.1 This expresses concern that CoDs issued in the UK during the first nine months of 2006 were "much lower than expected" and blames this on a "lack of implementation by the DVLA".
The report cites the Liberal Democrats’ European Parliament environment spokesman, Chris Davies, who last year warned that loopholes were allowing owners or "dodgy dismantlers" to avoid their responsibilities by ticking a box on vehicle deregistration forms that allows car owners to state they have scrapped the car themselves without requiring a certificate (ENDS Report 380, pp 14 ).
This month he warned the loophole was still being exploited by "hundreds" of rogue dealers operating in the UK offering cash for old cars, ignoring all environmental requirements and undercutting legitimate vehicle dismantlers.
The Environment Agency estimates that 500-800 illegal scrapyards are operating in England and Wales, yet in 2006 just 25 were successfully prosecuted for ELV offences.
"They are getting away with it because DVLA at Swansea has refused to play ball with the Department of Trade and Industry and ensure that its paperwork complies with the spirit and letter of the legislation," said Mr Davies. "Loopholes continue to exist that allow the rogues to avoid a paper trail to detection by not issuing the supposedly required Certificates of Destruction."
Illegal shipments of ELVs could also be a factor (ENDS Report 370, pp 15 ). If a vehicle is fit for use, capable of being repaired or its parts can be reused, its export is a legitimate trade. But how to define the point at which a vehicle becomes waste is proving difficult for regulators.
The Agency is developing a set of criteria to help officers decide whether ELVs found at UK ports are waste or not. To date, the Agency has given just one formal caution for the illegal export of ELV or ELV-derived waste.
The Motor Vehicle Dismantlers Association has renewed calls for the CoD system to be the only means of deregistration. It said the DVLA must apply more resources to overcome the current problems and urged it to raise the profile of CoDs among the public to "help drive more ELVs though the legal route and starve illegal operators of their feedstock".
The Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders, which recently wrote to the DVLA expressing its concern about the "failure to control the CoD system", said the lack of compulsion for last owners to obtain a CoD is a key issue.
Behind the scenes, concern is mounting that the government will face problems when reporting on 2006 performance to the European Commission by the June 2008 deadline. The DTI has been trying to get the DVLA - which reports to the Department for Transport - to agree that CoDs should be made the basis of deregistration.
Yet in a letter to the DTI last July, the DVLA said it was concerned that scrapping the notification box from registration certificates "may result in a disposal to the motor trade being completed instead, removing the responsibility of the individual to obtain a CoD and ending their liability".
Mike Rivers, ELV and operations manager at Ford, said this was a "red herring". If ELV owners can find a trader to take their vehicle, the trader becomes responsible for ensuring ownership details are amended with the DVLA and that the vehicle is deregistered via the CoD system.
Researchers at Chris Davies’ office said the reason the DVLA is making the situation so difficult pointed to "an intergovernmental dispute between DTI and the DfT".
Under fresh pressure, and at least eight months after the issue was raised in public, the DVLA said it is looking at several options to address the problem.
It said these include "issues relating to deregistration of vehicles, including the requirement for registered keepers to notify the Agency that the vehicle has been scrapped via the registration certificate", but it refused to elaborate.