Could a government scrappage scheme reinvigorate the motor industry?

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In an average year, Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATF) in the UK handle over one million end of life vehicles – recovering an estimated 4.1 million tonnes of recyclable or reusable metal. However, 2020 has by no means been an average year.

A car being scrapped for recycling.April saw new car sales fall by 98 per cent – and combined with MOT extensions, estimates suggest that fewer than 600,000 vehicles will be scrapped this year, potentially putting enormous pressure on ATFs and the wider motor industry.

Some facility operators suggest that a government-backed scrappage scheme could provide the incentive needed to encourage motorists with old vehicles back into showrooms – especially since 2009’s post-financial crash scrappage scheme was so well received by consumers. February 2010 saw new car sales increase by 26 per cent – and the scrappage scheme went on to support the replacement of over 300,000 older vehicles.

Consumer benefits are just one factor to consider – and a scrappage scheme could potentially offer a range of environmental benefits. Today, the average age of a scrap vehicle is 13.9 years old – and in that time, the UK car industry has gone from recycling 80 per cent of all vehicle waste – to world-leading 96.9 per cent recycling rate.

Every passing year sees manufacturers make lower emissions vehicles with more resource-efficient design and construction processes – and if a post-Covid scrappage scheme is as effective as 2010’s measures, it could mean the average age and emission levels of UK vehicles drop significantly.