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Publications archive - Waste and recycling

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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environmental Impact of End-of-Life Vehicles: An Information Paper

Environment Australia
2002
ISBN 0642547513


Auto Parts Recycling

Introduction

For vehicles that enter the recycling stream the waste management hierarchy emphasises the benefits of product reuse over other options, such as materials recycling, incineration and landfill.

Significant savings in resource use, and environmental releases, result from substituting existing products for newly manufactured parts. The extent of parts recycling prior to the ELV being shredded is discussed in this chapter.

Issues associated with environmental releases from recyclers' sites are discussed at Chapter 10.

The Parts Recycling Industry

The Auto Parts Recycling Association of Australia (APRAA) was of considerable assistance during the course of the original study. APRAA operates as a peak body for the industry, and estimates that it represents 30 - 40 % of the 800 - 900 "competent" or "legitimate" operators. Auto parts recyclers also fall within the gamut of the Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) representation, which was also consulted during the consultant's original study.

The auto parts recycling market in Australia is sufficient to sustain 1000 - 1500 businesses (Source: APRAA). The market for recycled parts appears to work effectively, with these firms providing the option of recycled parts for consumers throughout Australia who seek them in preference to new parts, or where new parts are unavailable.

Despite the efforts of APRAA, the industry remains relatively fragmented in organisational terms. In order to achieve the improved environmental outcomes discussed in this chapter, greater coordination within the industry would be required. It should be noted that other measures affecting the industry, particularly those under investigation by the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC), further suggest the need for greater industry co-ordination and hence a potentially greater role for APRAA in the future

Current requirement for ELV parts reuse

There is no regulatory requirement for automobile parts to be recycled, nor are automobile manufacturers required to achieve targets for the reuse and recycling of components in new vehicles, such as is now the case in Europe for instance.

The extent of parts recycling is therefore entirely dependent on the operation of the market for recycled components from ELVs. The level of ELV parts recycling is a factor of supply and demand side issues.

Extent of Parts Recycling

No reliable data were found on the incidence of parts recycling from ELVs in Australia. In international research papers, it has been estimated that parts recycling may account for up to 5% of an ELV (eg. Ref. 4, p.29). Parts typically removed include engines, transmissions, alternators, radiators and, depending on demand for particular vehicles, body panels and trim parts.

Trends in ELV parts recycling

During the course of this study, APRAA indicated their view that the market for spare parts is declining, and emphasised the significance of longer warranty periods as an important factor.

The trend towards newer vehicles, and declining cost effectiveness of repairing and maintaining older vehicles, is likely to have a detrimental impact on the market for recycled parts over time. In the absence of any government intervention measures to stimulate the reuse of ELV components, this is likely to result in the environmentally detrimental outcome of lower levels of reuse of ELV products. However, in so far as this is the result of a trend towards newer vehicles, lower reuse of ELV components may be at least partly offset by the greater overall environmental benefits of substituting new vehicles for old ones (see life cycle assessment at Chapter 12).

Supply side factors affecting ELV component reuse

Supply side issues affecting the extent and commercial viability of the ELV parts recycling industry include:

Demand side factors affecting the extent of ELV component reuse

The demand for recycled components is affected by:

Maximising ELV parts recycling

Increasing the extent of parts recycling may produce resource savings, reduced environmental releases and lessened waste impacts.

Key Finding

As discussed in Chapter 12, Vehicle Life Cycle Analysis, greater environmental outcomes may result from reducing the number of inefficient or highly polluting vehicles on the road. Consequently, any measures to increase parts recycling should be on the substitution impact, rather than increasing the attractiveness of reusing components in order to keep old vehicles on the road longer.

Accordingly, the supply and demand factors above which might usefully be influenced to achieve higher levels of component reuse are:

Dealer networks offering refurbished components as an alternative to new parts

Dealers generally do not promote used or refurbished components as an alternative to new parts, with some exceptions such as Volvo Australia.

It is accepted that consumers currently have the option of going outside the dealer network should they prefer recycled components. However, dealer networks actively pursue customer retention within and beyond the warranty period - ongoing vehicle servicing and repair is an important commercial factor in the economics of new vehicle sales. There are several reasons why many consumers prefer to remain with the dealer network beyond the warranty period - a dealer service history may lead to greater residual vehicle values, for instance.

Accordingly, dealer networks could play an important role in increasing the level of reuse of components by offering them as a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to new components. The reputation and after sales service of dealer networks could play a significant role in influencing consumer demand for used/refurbished components.

An important precursor to increased promotion or recycled components is likely to be closer cooperation between the dealer networks and the parts recycling industry. It is anticipated that increased demand from dealer networks for recycled components would lead to alliances with recycled parts suppliers to ensure reliability and quality of supply. In some countries, such as Japan, the United States and some European nations, some manufacturers have become directly involved in ELV dismantling. However, in those countries, it is still more common that commercial alliances with specialist recyclers are formed so that the manufacturers' focus remains on their core business.

In Europe manufacturers are now responsible, through legislation, for achieving progressively increasing targets for the reuse and recycling of ELVs (see Ref's. 8 and 44). In considering any policy approaches to increasing parts recycling, care would be needed to avoid regulations requiring manufacturers to increase the level of reuse and recycling of ELVs, at least until improved knowledge of the impediments to the development of markets for recycled ELV materials was investigated.

In the first instance, industry-developed initiatives to increased ELV reuse/recycling could emerge from better communication between the manufacturing and ELV recycling industries. This is discussed further in terms of materials recycling in Chapter 11.

Greater use of recycled/rebuilt components in the manufacture of new vehicles

Vehicle manufacturers also have the opportunity to increase the extent of ELV parts reuse through incorporation in the manufacture of new vehicles. While some importers return components from ELVs to manufacturing plants overseas for reuse, there appears to be limited reuse of existing components in Australian manufactured vehicles. The opportunities for reuse of components in this way would be greater in newer ELVs (ie. "write offs") rather than older models.

The viability of this option is dependent on the extent to which rebuilt original components meet manufacturers' safety, reliability and performance requirements for new vehicles. The commercial viability of reusing existing components relative to the cost of manufacturing new components is clearly also a key factor. However, to date the full environmental cost has not been a factor in this assessment, in so far as end of life and other environmental impacts are not fully incorporated in the cost of new materials and components.

As discussed above, it is desirable to allow the industry itself determine the most appropriate options for increasing the level of reuse/recycling of ELVs, rather than mandating particular solutions which may be economically sub-optimal. However, reuse of ELV components in new vehicles appears to be an option, which could be further investigated by manufacturers.

Improved "design for disassembly" in new vehicles

The commercial viability of parts reuse is in part dependent on the ease with which parts can be removed. The number, location and design of fasteners for instance, can have a significant bearing of the ease of disassembly and hence their economic value.

A related issue is the dissemination of information from manufacturers to assist in ELV disassembly. In Europe, manufacturers have cooperated to develop disassembly manuals for most if not all vehicles. The FCAI argued against such measures in Australia, citing the limited need given present levels of disassembly and reuse and recycling. It was seen to be an unnecessary additional cost burden on manufacturers.

Again, there may be merit in better communication between manufacturers and ELV recyclers to work towards industry developed solutions for higher levels of parts reuse.

Auto manufacturing industry views

Discussions with the Federal Chamber of Automobile Industries (FCAI) and their members indicated opposition to any requirement to impose reuse/recycling targets on Australian manufacturers. The cost impact on local manufacturers was seen as being unwarranted given the different conditions in Australia than, say Europe. This is discussed further in relation to materials recycling at Chapter 11.