The government last month (February 2016) announced that it was raising the target for the proportion of van and car components which must be recycled, from the current 85% to 95%.

And to help owners and operators of the many vehicles which are now obsolete when they reach the end of their life, a free scheme has been launched under which owners of vans up to 3.5 tons can get their vehicles disposed of safely.

As the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, an umbrella body for the motor industry, explained, the issue doesn’t arise for owners whose vehicle type is still in production, or where the manufacturer is still in business.

But the fast pace of change in motor manufacturing - with the disappearance of the likes of LDV, and even Ford quitting van production in the UK back in 2013 - means owners of life-expired vans may have faced a dilemma when they need to dispose of their once dependable but now clapped-out workhorses.

To help prevent this becoming a problem for businesses, the SMMT has brought on board a specialist vehicle recycling firm, Autogreen, which is offering to collect unwanted vans from anywhere in the UK, and then, according to the SMMT, “make sure that all vehicles can be easily disposed of in a safe, environmentally friendly way for free”.

The amount of waste going to landfill from car and van factories has dropped by 90 per cent since 2000, and the SMMT claims that less than two per cent of waste these massive plants produce is not now recycled.


What Is An Orphan Vehicle?

You might well be driving one of these without having realised it before - but an orphan vehicle is one where the brand name no longer exists, or where the brand has been swallowed up by another maker.

There are believed to be about 700,000 such vehicles still being driven on the UK’s roads, and they include a wide range of famous names, from the Triumph TR7 or Reliant Robin, to those aforementioned LDV vans. If you’re a motoring fan, you can no doubt think of many others.


Vans Get Greener

There have been a great deal of efforts in recent years to not only make vans more environmentally friendly during their lives, but also to eliminate the damage to the environment caused by both making them and breaking them up when they reach the end of their lives.

The SMMT points out that emissions of carbon dioxide for every vehicle produced in the UK have been cut by just over 40 per cent since 2000. Van and car factories have also drastically cut their output of waste which goes straight to landfill over the same period, from around a quarter to less than two per cent. But a large proportion of those emissions which couldn’t be tackled until now were accounted for by those rugged and once-reliable vans and cars which were clinging on to life.

These types of vehicles were greatly penalised in the calculations of their whole-life costs due to their obsolescence, which meant that far fewer of their parts could be recycled and re-used when compared with models which are still in production.


Technology vs. Sustainability

Some in the motor industry would argue that the need for more vehicle parts to be salvaged for remanufacture and re-use might hold back the widespread introduction of new innovations designed in themselves to improve efficiency.

But this will only happen if there is a large-scale switch to driving newer vehicles. Some people will always be happier to drive around in an older van which they know they can keep running with the help of a friendly mechanic who knows a reliable source of the most common spare parts he or she’s likely to need. And there will also always be a large proportion of businesses which want a van but simply can’t get the funds needed to buy a new one.

For such buyers, access to a healthy market in used vans is essential. It’s also reassuring for them to know that they can still get hold of a wide range of spare parts to help them keep their transport running.


Where Europe Leads…

EU politicians have had their eyes on the growing numbers of vans and other vehicles being disposed of, classifying them as a ‘priority waste stream’ in an effort to tackle the potential for environmental damage from the process of dismantling them, and lack of safe means of disposing of the parts which can’t be reused.

So it introduced the End-Of-Life Vehicle Directive, initially in 2000 - eventually adopted in the UK in 2002 - and updated in 2014, and intended to ensure that the seven to eight million tonnes of waste produced EU-wide every year is properly managed.


But What Will It Cost?

Good news - it’s free. Anyone who has a van or car they need to have disposed of won’t be charged to have them taken away, provided they go through the SMMT’s appointed partner in the scheme.

This company, Autogreen, has set up a website through which anyone can get a quote for how much they will be given for their vehicle, including for it to be taken away and disposed of in the approved manner.

The scheme is designed to be as easy as possible to use, and while it isn’t anywhere near as generous as past vehicle scrappage schemes, which offered inducements worth a few thousand pounds to persuade drivers to trade up to newer, more efficient models, it does at least ensure that those old ‘scrappers’ are properly disposed of, with as many of their old bits salvaged as possible.

Fed up of you old van and looking for a cleaner, roomier or more efficient model? Check out our new vans page to see what's available.