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Vehicle Depollution Process


When your end of life vehicle (ELV) is collected, it is taken to an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF). There, it needs to have the hazardous materials removed and any reusable parts salvaged before it is sent to be crushed and recycled. The process of removing the hazardous materials is called depollution and usually, it takes place in less than 4 days of your car arriving at the ATF. See more on Car Recycling


The tasks that the ATF are required to perform in the depollution process are defined by the Environment Agency (or local equivalent). If an ATF fails to follow the process, they can have their licences revoked. 


Why is Depollution Important?


End of life vehicles contain many components that have the potential to cause environmental harm. Oils, fuel, battery acid, coolants, anti-freeze, windscreen wash, and refrigerants (for air conditioning), can all contaminate the earth. If disposed of incorrectly, these fluids can enter the water supply and the food chain, where unsurprisingly, they can cause a wide range of health problems.  There are also other materials that can pose a danger, including switches (some of which contain mercury) and tyres. 


By depolluting a car, the ATF can remove these materials and make sure they are disposed of correctly. This usually means storing the materials for a short time until they can be collected by/delivered to a specialist recycling centre. Recycling centres are able to process the fluids, tyres, etc., so that they are broken down into materials that can be reused. For example, tyres are shredded and the rubber can be used in the construction industry.


Depollution Process


To depollute your end of life vehicle, the ATF staff have to remove the:



Hazardous or Controlled


Lead-acid batter


Can be recycled at a specialist recycling centre see car Battery Recycling for more information 


Controlled waste. Records of disposal should be kept for 2 years. Regulations for storage must be followed.

Can be recycled at a specialist recycling centre, see Tyre Recycling. There are strict rules about the number of tyres that can be stored on site (tyre fires burn at intense temperatures and can last for days).

Wheels and lead balance weights


Lead is a hazardous material

Liquid Petroleum Gas Tank


LPG is hazardous. LPG tanks are not fitted on all vehicles.

Air bags

Varies, depending on type. Some are hazardous.

Airbags are potentially explosive. Even after being set off, many are still classed as a hazardous material due to the chemicals they contain. 

Seat Belt Pre-Tensioners

Varies, depending on type. Some are hazardous.

Pre-tensioners are potentially explosive. Even after being set off, many are still classed as a hazardous material due to the chemicals they contain. 

Oils, fluids, liquids


Oils, lubricants, fuel, coolants, refrigerants, anti-freeze fluids, and wash fluids are all considered to be hazardous waste. If disposed of incorrectly, they can contaminate soil and pollute the water supply.

Catalytic converter

Controlled waste if catalytic converter is intact.

Hazardous waste if catalytic converter is open and catalyst material is exposed.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals, but during use, come into contact with pollutants. 

Oil Filter


Oils from filters can leak and contaminate soil and the water supply.

Switches containing mercury


Mercury can contaminate soil and the water supply. Mercury is toxic.


When these materials have been removed, the car is ‘depolluted’ and is safe to crush. After the car has been crushed, its metals, plastics, and fibres can be separated and recycled.

Many of the materials that are removed during depollution can also be recycled, but they need to be processed at specialist recycling facilities. There are strict rules on the amount of hazardous materials an ATF is permitted to store and so they are usually sent for recycling very quickly. 


ATFs Have to Store and Transfer Waste Responsibly

The Environment Agency (or local equivalent) requires ATFs to complete official forms when they transfer waste. The ATFs also have to store the materials safely, where they cannot contaminate the environment, while they are waiting to be transferred. 


The documentation that is required varies, dependent on the type of waste. 


Waste Type

Documentation Required

Details Needed

Controlled Waste 

Waste Transfer Note

Type of waste, amount of waste, how waste is transported, time and date of transportation, carrier’s information, operator’s information. 

Requires code from the European Waste Catalogue.

Both the operator and waste carrier have to sign the note.

Records stored for 2 years.

Hazardous Waste

Hazardous Waste Consignment Note

Same as Controlled Waste (above).

Records stored for 3 years.


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