Tough new rules that classify scrapped vehicles as hazardous waste could lead to an epidemic of car dumping as motorists refuse to pay recycling costs.
Universal Salvage warns that the EC Hazardous Waste regulation, which comes into force from January, will mean up to 2m cars that are annually scrapped will now require special handling and storage by registered salvage operators.
It believes that the costs involved, likely to be paid by the car owner, will undermine the Government's objectives, leading to a flood of vehicle dumping.
The average cost of scrapping a car is presently £140. Universal Salvage expects this to rise to £250 under the new regulations.
Ian Gaskin, Universal Salvage environmental director, said Approved Treatment Centres (ATCs) would have to be set up from April to meet the impending End of Life Vehicle directive.
ELV specifies how end of life vehicles should be handled and de-polluted – and who is responsible for funding the cost.
But Government proposals to implement a retrospective element next year – making carmakers responsible for funding the recycling of all cars – would remove the cost from car owners, helping to limit dumping.
Should the proposals be dropped – and the motor industry is lobbying hard to change the Government's position – motorists are expected to be prevented from dumping cars at the roadside by new tax laws.
Owners will probably have to continue paying tax on the car until a 'certificate of destruction' is issued, effectively forcing them to pay for the car's disposal.
Mr Gaskin said: “The directives will hopefully get rid of cowboy scrap dealers and replace them with well-regulated, environmentally-responsible companies.
“The bad news is that treating old cars as hazardous waste is expensive and for the next few years at least, motorists will most likely have to pay.”
When the directive comes into force, all fluids will have to be removed from the end of life vehicle and stored separately.
Special removal/storage facilities are required for batteries, tyres, catalysts, safety restraint systems, aircon gases and LPG tanks. Centres will also need facilities to recycle materials like plastics and glass. A study for the UK Government by environmental group CARE suggests the average cost of upgrading a salvage site's facilities to meet ATC standards at more than £250,000.
The SMMT has expressed “bewilderment” at the Government's plans to bring forward to next year the retrospective element of ELV.
“There is not a chance of the salvage operators handling such large volumes of end of life vehicles – they are not geared up for next year,” said a spokesman.