How does the ELV recycling and recovery target translate into practice? - The case of the system for treatment of Norwegian ELVs
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The growth of vehicles as a means of transportation, as well as the increasing computerization of vehicles, makes end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) an important waste flow to recycle. In Norway, the ELV treatment system has reported to reach the stringent targets of 95% recovery of which at least 85% should come from material recovery. This suggests that Norway is a good example to investigate to understand the influence and implementation of the ELV directive, as well as the way we report on and quantify recycling and recovery rates. By investigating the current ELV treatment system using material flow analysis, we discovered that there is a lack of access to data necessary to determine the circularity of materials arising from ELV treatment. In contact with system actors, we found that the implementation of the ELV directive has caused more awareness, increased investments in sorting technology and a higher share of treated ELV goes to other destinations than disposal. These changes suggests that system actors are flexible to change, and that the directive has caused improvements. By quantifying the Norwegian ELV treatment system based on available data, we found that the current reporting scheme and recycling rate is not optimal for motivating for, or measuring the potential circulation of ELV materials. It is necessary to understand to what degree the recycled materials are contributing to reducing resource use and emissions, as well as to avoid negative consequences like loss of important materials and down cycling. We found that the current, in practice definition of reuse and material recovery remains unclear on the actual end use and end destination for several treatment outputs. To that end, there is a need to prioritize more knowledge about the destination of these outputs. After defining the system, we treated one ELV through the system and found that without an extended system boundary, material specific reporting will help inform system actors on which materials are recovered in recovery output flows, and which are lost. By including material specific data, it enables government and industry to make priorities to which flows should be material recovered today (i.e. metals), and which could be more suitable to incinerate for energy recovery today, and material recovery in the future (i.e. plastic containing POPs). By extending the reporting scheme of ELVs to include final destinations, as well as materials, strategic choices can be made in technology development and regulations to guide the flows and support the transition to circular economy. Furthermore, economic gains of innovation and new approaches to recycling (i.e. manual sorting of specific metals like electronics) could be uncovered.