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Last Updated: Monday, 1 January 2007, 09:26 GMT
Old cars scrapped free of charge
A pile of scrap cars
Car makers must take care of their old vehicles when they are scrapped
Drivers across the EU can now have their old cars scrapped free of charge, under a new European Union directive that has come into force.

Carmakers are being made responsible for the disposal of old vehicles under the End of Life Vehicles directive.

The requirement was already in place for cars made after 2002, but now applies to all vehicles of any age.

The amount of harmful materials, such as mercury and lead, will now also be reduced in new models by manufacturers.

The aim is to recycle or re-use more than 80% of each vehicle.

Between 8m and 9m tonnes of waste from vehicles that have reached the end of their lives is generated within the EU each year.

Bankruptcy fears

When the idea first surfaced, carmakers argued the directive could cost the industry millions of pounds and threaten struggling car producers with bankruptcy.

A similar scheme will come into operation for the disposal of electrical and electronic goods by the middle of the year.

The average lifespan of a car is 13.5 years and about 2m cars and vans are scrapped each year in the UK alone.

As the value of scrap metal has fallen over the years, motorists in the UK have often been charged about 50 (74 euros) for the disposal of their vehicles by scrap merchants.

But the cost has discouraged many people from doing so, meaning thousands of unwanted cars have simply been abandoned by the roadside.

The cost of removing them then often falls on the local authority.

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