UK Update | Scrap Cars — and a Little Sunshine for Solar Power

Off Road Vehicle

Guest blog post by Giveacar Ltd

Until recently, car donation has been virtually non-existent over in the UK. But, US-based initiatives such as car donation scrapping organization have inspired a new scheme in the UK called Giveacar in its charitable fundraising methods.

Targeting this previously untapped source of income, and using the US model as a springboard, Giveacar provides a free service that arranges for the collection and safe recycling of scrap cars, donating the majority of the proceeds to a charity of the owner’s choice on their behalf. It’s a process that provides multiple benefits – to the people who need to get rid of their cars, to the charities in need of donations, and, equally importantly, to the environment.

Since it began in January 2010, Giveacar has managed to raise over $300,000 for over 250 charities, and campaigns to highlight the importance of safely scrapping end-of-life motors.

The environmental aspect of the scheme was a significant motivator for Giveacar’s founder, 24-year-old Tom Chance, who is determined to lessen the pollutive impact of older vehicles in Britain.

Another one bites the dust

With traffic pollution now the major threat to clean air in the UK, older vehicles are among the worst culprits when it comes to affecting air quality. Of the 1 million vehicles that come off the roads in the UK every year, only half are handled in an environmentally appropriate way. A large proportion of the remaining million vehicles, which are unaccounted for, are brought ‘back to life’ and re-introduced onto the roads after being supposedly disposed of by unauthorized, ‘cowboy’ scrappers. This unregulated re-commissioning of vehicles – what UK car salvage specialist Bluecycle calls the “Lazarus effect” – poses serious air pollution (not to mention safety) hazards.

The EU End of Life Vehicle Directive requires scrapping to take place at one of the UK’s 1,617 Authorized Treatment Facilities (or ATFs), where the pollutants associated with vehicles are managed through safe recovery or disposal. But what happens to those cars that are de-commissioned, but not handled by an ATF? According to Tom Chance, many of them end up in illegal scrap yards, landfills, or virtually abandoned, leaching heavy metals and toxins into the ground, while oil, brake fluid and other toxic liquids are poured into sewers and down drains. Heaps of abandoned tires by the roadside are also a common sight in rural areas of the country. Through processing the cars only at ATFs, Giveacar guarantees all hazardous materials are removed to the highest environmental standards, before the shell of the car is sent off for recycling.

And the recycling element is important too. Whereas previously only the metal components used to be recycled, now, due to stricter environmental legislation, the glass and plastics are also recovered and re-used. Car recycling is a big, though costly, industry, with the proportion of unusable vehicles being recycled in Britain every year being greater than any other consumer product. Gaining access to these end-of-life vehicles and ensuring the materials they provide are properly re-used aids in the creation of a multitude of new consumer products at a lower environmental cost.

Approximately 90% of the vehicles donated to Giveacar are scrapped and recycled, meaning that many heavy polluters are taken off the roads for good.

Through this scheme, they also help to ensure that the many pollutants associated with car disposal – including tires, fuels, oil, brake fluid, batteries and anti-freeze – don’t make their way into Britain’s soil and water systems.

There is some compromise however: in cases where a donated vehicle is still of value and in working order – and in recognition of the environmental cost of manufacturing a new car – Giveacar instead opts to salvage it through auction, thereby increasing the revenue raised for charity.

Though Giveacar would like to see a car-less society in an ideal future, and encourages the use of walking, bikes, and public transport, they recognize, as they must, that car purchasing is on the rise. Even so, by getting rid of heavy polluters, the path is cleared for greener cars to take their place, whether these are highly fuel-efficient, hybrid, or even electric vehicles.

As far as solar powered cars becoming a feature of British roads in the near future, this looks unlikely for the time being – the UK not being exactly famous for its sunny climate. However, if some rumors are to be believed – such as bag-less vacuum cleaner inventor James Dyson’s development of a solar powered motor powerful enough to run a car – it’s not an idea that should necessarily be entirely written off.

Solar power has certainly been taking off in other areas of the UK. A theme park in Devon, Southwest England has recently unveiled plans to run up to 90% of its operations through the use of solar power. Crealy Great Adventure Park’s 100-acre site will be powered by an installation of approximately 200,000 square feet of photovoltaic panels placed on the roofs of the main buildings, and covering the play areas and carports. Its managing director anticipates that, in the summer months when the sun is at its brightest, the panels should generate enough power to run everything from the catering facilities to the rollercoasters, save hundreds of tons of carbon dioxide a year, and provide enough surplus power to run 200 homes.

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