One million cars scrapped each year: What does Britain expect from a vehicle recycler?

Over one million cars are scrapped in Britain every year, so what do people take into consideration before recycling their vehicle and how much do individuals know about what happens to their vehicles? EMR’s End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) Manager, Steve Thomas, discusses what a recent online survey, carried out by EMR and YouGov, tells us about vehicle recycling habits in Britain.

For many years vehicle recyclers like EMR have focused on improving their service offering through competitive pricing and excellent customer experience as a way to entice new customers to their business. However, consumers now expect more from a vehicle recycler than a fair price and exceptional service.

In recent years, recycling habits have become a subject of frequent discussion in British households. It is estimated that 9 in 10 UK households recycle regularly.[1]

EMR - One million cars scrapped each year- What does Britain expect from a vehicle recycler?

Sustainable recycling is now a major consideration for consumers selling their vehicles, with 40 percent of survey respondents naming this as a priority. Consumers are now key players in holding businesses to account for their environmental practices. As a result, people are no longer comfortable selling or disposing their vehicles at end of life with no consideration of how they are handled and recycled.

Each year EMR recycles over 100,000 vehicles in Britain. Our track record of innovation and investment in sustainable recycling puts us at an advantage here, as does the high yield of recyclable material we are able to extract from every car we process. In this way, we can ensure that we are helping our customers meet their sustainable ambitions.

It’s also important because, as the image above highlights, 63 percent of Great British adults surveyed by YouGov, believe that recycling firms are liable for ensuring cars are recycled in an environmentally-responsible way, more than those who identified the car owner (36 percent), the government (32 percent) or car manufacturer (27 percent) as bearing some of this responsibility.

This illustrates the expectation that recyclers should not only ensure that their own operations are sustainable, but should also encourage high standards of environmental best practice in the industry as a whole, with limited expectations placed on the government or manufacturers by consumers.

Yet, it is important to remember that service does still matter. Consumers are juggling their time more than ever before. They seek a service that eliminates the time consuming tasks that are involved with recycling a vehicle, such as registering the vehicle’s destruction with the DVLA and visiting a metal recycling centre to hand it over.

And as the survey results suggest, customers now require a comprehensive service from vehicle recyclers. When asked to imagine they were looking for a company to recycle a car they owned, more than half of respondents (52 percent) thought it was important that a recycler should register the recycling of their vehicle with the DVLA and provide them with a Certificate of Destruction (CoD). Paying for the vehicle quickly (38 percent), being a registered Authorised Treatment Facility (36 percent) and offering a contact-free collection service from the person’s home (26 percent) were also prioritised by those taking part in the survey.

It is clear that vehicle recyclers must continue to offer a fair price and exceptional service to consumers whilst demonstrating their environmental credentials. However, the question arises, do people in Britain understand what happens to their vehicle once they have sold it for recycling?

The overwhelming answer is no! Only 43 percent of those surveyed believed that more than half of the materials used in cars can be recycled or recovered, yet EMR recycles or recovers over 95 percent of the materials in the cars that it receives. This suggests that individuals underestimate the sophistication and efficiency of the modern recycling industry.

Over the last decade EMR has invested heavily to ensure that we have the infrastructure and technologies we need to enable us to recycle as much of the materials we receive as possible. These advanced technologies ultimately enable us to separate and recycle over 10 million tonnes of material each year. 

Our operational investments are guided by the principles outlined in ‘Our Decade of Action’. This strategy sets out how we will become carbon neutral by 2040. In striving for these improvements we will fulfil the expectations placed on us by our customers.

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A world without waste: the rise of urban mining

The ‘urban mine’ can help transform the UK economy and support businesses of all kinds to meet their carbon reduction targets, explains Roger Morton, Managing Director for Technology and Innovation at EMR Metal Recycling. 

Urban mining is a philosophy that sees the material we recycle not as waste but as a valuable resource that can help us save the planet and keep valuable materials right here in the UK.

At EMR we ‘mine’ the metals and plastics we recycle. These arrive from a huge range of sources that would otherwise be disposed as waste, including end-of-life vehicles, redundant buildings, industrial, commercial and domestic waste and even ships and oil rigs. Our work avoids the need to use virgin material taken out of the ground. And, the best news is, this can be more efficient and much less carbon intensive than conventional mining.

One great example of a material we can ‘mine’ in this way is copper. I started my career working at a large open-cast copper mine in Southern Africa. We were mining copper deposits containing just 0.5 percent copper. This copper was present as copper sulphate and we had to sift enormous amounts of ‘overburden’ – the term for the 99.5 percent of rock that isn’t copper sulphate. Processing then smelting the remaining material, generated large quantities of sulphuric acid.


Roger Morton, Managing Director for Technology and Innovation at EMR Metal Recycling

That mine is now exhausted and the open pit operations have closed.

Thanks to urban mining, EMR makes use of a resource that arrives at our door containing substantially more copper than in that copper mine, without  the production of sulphuric acid.

In the long term, it will be even more important to re-use metals like copper, nickel, cobalt and others, as the mineable metals available will continue to run out over the next century. The Copper Alliance says current proven reserves of copper will run out in 46 years at our current rate of usage. The World 7 model, meanwhile, predicts global supplies of nickel will essentially run out by 2130.

We are planning for that future now.

Our economy has already started to respond. According to Fraunhofer ISI, in 2015, around half of the 3.7million tonnes of copper used by the EU came from recycled sources.

With the help of urban mining activities like those spearheaded by EMR, we will continue to increase this rate – not just for copper, but for other high-value metals such as titanium, nickel and cobalt as well as steel and aluminium.

In many ways, urban mining is what recycling companies have always done. What has changed over the past 15 years is that technology has advanced incredibly fast. This has been driven by technical innovations in metal recycling but also in plastic recycling. Techniques such as near infrared and X-Ray spectroscopy have transformed the yields we’re able to extract from waste.

And we’re utilising technological advances from across the economy. At EMR we have been following the engineering innovations in the mining and coal processing industries, as well as in food processing. The tech that helps farmers separate carrots or grains can be used in our sector to improve our urban mining efforts.

Still, the UK faces major challenges if we are to remain a leader in urban mining. To return to the example of copper, it can be tempting for suppliers to use virgin copper by default because it is all in one place – in the copper mine – while the copper we extract is spread across the waste materials that we process. Also, the mines process huge amounts of copper – worldwide more than 400,000 tonnes each week, according to Statista – so they have the economies of scale.

One of the benefits of EMR is that we operate on a large scale too. We have over 60 sites across the UK and operations in USA, Germany and the Netherlands, all collecting material. Our size means we can consolidate our processes and make the investments needed to compete. We are developing sophisticated methods to capture the tiniest quantities of rare-earth metals and other strategic materials from the waste stream, which we can send straight to a smelter to be turned into useful products once more.

This is a much shorter recovery route with a much better carbon impact. At EMR we are passionate about reducing our carbon footprint with ambitious goals to cut our emissions in the next decade – part of Our Decade of Action strategy – and a target to become net zero by 2040. Embracing the urban mine means we can also help those up and down the supply chain to reduce their environmental impacts.

So, what’s next? If the UK is going to fully utilise all of the high-value material in our waste, then all parts of the supply chain need to be on board, with industries including technology firms and manufacturers designing their products so recycling companies, like EMR, can increase our yields and ensure more of the materials we throw away can contribute to the next generation of products.

There’s lots of interesting initiatives happening in this area in the UK and across Europe and for all product types. An example is CEFLEX, a major collaboration between all the parts of the supply chain on flexible packaging. Most flexible packaging (including crisp packets and cereal bags) is made of six or seven layers of plastic. The CEFLEX initiative involves collaboration between brands, packaging converters, product designers, retailers, waste companies and recyclers to simplify flexible packaging design to make it more recyclable.

We need to follow the same approach in industries like automotive, electrical equipment and construction to minimise the range of material we use and to make it easier to separate and dismantle. One way in which EMR is already leading in this effort is with RECOVAS, a new government-funded partnership with other recyclers and some of the world’s biggest car manufacturers – including BMW, Bentley Motors and Jaguar Land Rover and Warwick University – to create an end-of-life supply chain for electric vehicle batteries. It is already clear that electric cars will be one of the most important technologies as the UK moves towards net zero by 2050. By capturing, or even reusing, the valuable components of these vehicles, partnerships like RECOVAS will take these efforts to make our lives more sustainable to the next level.

If we get this right, the concept of the urban mine is going to change the world for the better. At EMR we’re proud to be at the heart of this transformation.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Businesses and Employers Bulletin – 2 September 2020

This bulletin is issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and provides the latest information for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19). All coronavirus business support information can be found at

  • Kickstart Scheme
  • New Updates and Guidance
  • Updates to local restrictions and travel corridors in England

Read more: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Businesses and Employers Bulletin – 2 September 2020

2018 Year of Engineering

The UK Space Agency is joining forces with partners across government and industry to give thousands of young people inspiring experiences of engineering.

This is part of a year-long campaign to tackle the engineering skills gap and widen the pool of young people who join the profession.


The World of Aluminium, West Bromwich, 4 December


Tuesday 4 December 2018, 9.00am – 4.15pm

Park Inn Hotel, West Bromwich B70 6RS      

An intensive, one-day workshop that gives participants an elementary, practical understanding of aluminium production, processing, application, markets and industry.

Equally suited to technical and non-technical people, the workshop is delivered by Jan Lukaszewski. It requires no prior knowledge of aluminium, and is therefore suitable for both new and more experienced employees.

The four sessions of the workshop are:

  • Introduction to Aluminium
  • Working with Aluminium
  • Uses of Aluminium
  • The UK Aluminium Industry

A copy of the full programme can be viewed here

Workshop fees

ALFED Members – £260.00 + vat = £312.00 – This price includes a complimentary copy of ALFED’s ‘Properties of Aluminium and its Alloys’ 

Non-Members – £375.00 + vat = £450.00 – This price includes a complimentary copy of ALFED’s ‘Properties of Aluminium and its Alloys’ 

This includes refreshments, lunch, course notes and ALFED ‘Props Book’.

Please book places at the workshop using this booking form

For further information, please contact Ann Gough on 0121 601 6365.