Commentary: Cars run into recycling lobby

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The Independent Online
Car manufacturers are being assailed from all sides at the moment. Yesterday it was the turn of the German environment minister, Klaus Toepfer, who presented a draft regulation, due to become law next year, making it compulsory for car makers to take back their old cars when they are ready for the scrap heap.

The aim of the legislation is eminently sensible - to force the car industry to make its products from materials that are environmentally-friendly and can be recycled.

Unfortunately, the trend towards greener cars coincides with a sharp downturn in the finances of many Western European car makers. Although in practice they will not be faced with the cost of recyling for some years, the cost of developing cars using different materials or processes will bite now.

Most German manufacturers, in anticipation of the new laws, have begun to produce cars with a high recyclability factor and some have also announced take- back guarantees on their latest models.

But the new regulation will apply equally to cars imported into Germany - Western Europe's biggest car market accounting for about a quarter of total sales. Furthermore, what the Germans are doing today is likely to be followed by other European countries tomorrow.

The UK car industry needs further environmental demands like it needs a hole in the head.

The way the domestic market is going at present there could be an awful lot of cars destined for the scrapheap come the end of the year - all of them of the unsold and new variety.