End-of-life vehicles

Two thirds of out-of-service cars in Switzerland are exported to other countries as used cars. The rest are classified as end-of-life vehicles. These are disposed of in Switzerland by specialised companies. These companies sell functioning parts for use as replacement parts, remove harmful substances from the vehicles and recover metals for use as raw materials.

Approximately 200,000 vehicles are withdrawn from circulation every year in Switzerland. A large proportion of them are completely roadworthy or only have minor damage or faults. These vehicles are classified as second-hand articles. They are often exported and sold on used car markets abroad. All other vehicles are classified as end-of-life vehicles and hence qualify as controlled waste.

Ecological assessment

The re-use of vehicles for their original purpose makes sense from an ecological perspective. The environmental impact associated with the production of a new vehicle is often greater than the impact avoided through the early replacement of an older model. Replacement can make sense if the new vehicle has considerably  lower fuel consumption or pollutant emissions. However, it is not possible to provide general assessment criteria for determining whether a car should be authorised for export from an ecological perspective. Neither the mileage nor the age of the vehicle are reliable.

Motor vehicles contain numerous environmentally hazardous liquids and other pollutants. The incorrect dismantling of vehicles poses a risk to human life and the environment.

Separate collection

In accordance with the Ordinance on Movements of Waste (OMW), end-of-life vehicles, e.g. passenger cars, trucks, construction machines, agricultural vehicles and motor cycles, are classified as "other controlled waste". Waste disposal companies in Switzerland which accept end-of-life vehicles require a permit from the canton in which they are located. This also applies to drained and stripped end-of-life vehicles. End-of-life vehicles may only be exported for disposal or dismantling with the authorisation of the FOEN. Their export to countries that are not members of the OECD or EU is prohibited.

Licensed disposal operations in accordance with OMW:

Only roadworthy and minimally damaged or functioning replacement parts qualify as used goods, which can be re-used for their original purpose. These may be exported in accordance with the procedures applicable to the normal movement of goods.

Disposal/recycling

When vehicles are disposed of, the functioning parts are removed and used as replacement parts. This is a particularly attractive option in the case of vehicles involved in accidents as they often have new parts, for which considerable demand exists. Larger parts made from uniform materials (e.g. bumpers) can undergo separate material recovery.

Licensed disposal companies drain vehicles that have been withdrawn from circulation and strip them of pollutants. They remove the petrol/diesel, oil and other operating fluids, batteries, tyres and catalysts. Particular attention is paid to components that contain known pollutants such as asbestos, mercury and PCBs: these must be disposed of separately. The purpose of this approach is three-fold:

  • safety during transport and storage;
  • protection of employees during subsequent shredding and separation into recyclable materials;
  • environmentally-sound disposal of the waste fractions produced.

Around two thirds of a car consists of metals which can be recovered as raw materials through shredding and separating. The remaining shredder light fraction mostly consists of plastics, textiles, rubber, glass and metals. This is referred to by waste specialists as RESH (residue + shredder) and usually undergoes thermal utilisation.

Financing

The financing of the disposal of end-of-life vehicles is based on the polluter-pays principle. The Stiftung Autorecycling Schweiz (Foundation Auto Recycling Switzerland) generally levies an advance disposal fee when new vehicles are imported. The proceeds are then used for the environmentally sound disposal of end-of-life vehicles, in particular the disposal of shredder light fraction.

Action required

The FOEN would like to further optimise the thermal utilisation of shredder light fraction and the useful recovery of valuable substances, and create the necessary legal conditions for this.

Further information

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Last modification 29.06.2018

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