Guidance

When a motor vehicle is waste

Find out when the Environment Agency classes a motor vehicle as waste and waste controls apply.

If a vehicle is waste it is called an end of life vehicle (ELV).

It is a legal requirement that an ELV:

  • is depolluted by an authorised treatment facility (ATF)
  • is issued with a certificate of destruction (CoD) where required - for example lorries, buses and motorbikes do not need one

See guidance on depollution and CoDs.

An ELV that is not depolluted or is partially depolluted is hazardous waste. You must follow the guidance on how to deal with hazardous waste.

When an undepolluted ELV is transported you must fill in a consignment note unless it is an end of life private vehicle. See guidance on how to complete a consignment note.

End of life private vehicles

If a householder decides to scrap their car and drives the unwanted car to a scrapyard (known as an ATF), it is waste and classed as hazardous waste. The householder is not required to produce a hazardous waste consignment note for the journey from their home to the ATF.

If a householder decides to scrap their car and arranges transport of an unwanted vehicle to an ATF, the vehicle is waste and classed as hazardous waste. The movement or collection of the vehicle from domestic premises to the ELV site does not need a consignment note for the journey from the householder’s home to the ATF.

End of life commercial vehicles

If a commercial vehicle operator, such as a bus or coach company, car hire business or freight business, decides to scrap a vehicle, it is classed as hazardous waste. These vehicles are not domestic waste produced at domestic premises, so a consignment note is needed for the journey from the vehicle operator to the ATF.

Damaged, stolen or abandoned vehicles held by vehicle recovery operators (VROs)

Includes vehicles held on behalf of the police.

VROs remove broken down, abandoned and accident damaged vehicles from the highway. They may also store stolen recovered vehicles on behalf of the police and insurance companies. The VRO usually stores the vehicle at its compound while it waits for instruction from the vehicle owner, police or other interested party such as a local authority or insurance company.

The Environment Agency will not normally class these vehicles as waste until the decision is made to depollute and dismantle it.

Stored vehicles waiting for insurance claim settlement

The Environment Agency will not normally class an accident damaged vehicle stored at a salvage yard waiting for an insurance claim assessment as waste. It becomes waste when the insurer concludes the claim settlement with the vehicle’s owner, has issued payment and has identified the vehicle as suitable for scrapping.

If the stored vehicle is severely damaged and/or is leaking fluids then action must be taken to prevent pollution.

If the insurer assesses that the vehicle is a category A or B write-off, it is classed as waste. If it has not been depolluted, it is classed as hazardous waste.

If the insurer assesses that the vehicle is a category S (repairable structural) or N (repairable non-structural), it is not classed as waste unless the decision is made to scrap the vehicle rather than to sell it for repair.

Abandoned and nuisance vehicles

Certain authorities, like a local authority, can seize a vehicle that seems to be abandoned or is causing an obstruction and is not taxed. It will be collected and stored in a pound or depot. The vehicle will not be waste until:

  • the owner or keeper has confirmed they will not reclaim it
  • the vehicle seizure notice has expired and the seizing authority decides to release it for scrapping

As soon as that decision is made the vehicle becomes waste at the place where it is being stored.

Vehicles being dismantled

A vehicle being dismantled for parts is waste. Sites that depollute and dismantle vehicles must have an environmental permit.

See the guidance for ELV waste sites.

Parts removed from vehicles

Once a vehicle has been depolluted the parts can be removed. Once removed, if the part is certain to be reused for its original purpose without any further testing or repair then it ceases to be waste.

The parts must be stored and handled in a way that will not damage them. If they are not, they are classed as waste.

Restoring a classic car as a hobby

The Environment Agency will not normally class classic car restoration work as a waste activity if it’s a hobby. But it does expect unwanted fluids and damaged parts to be removed and disposed of in a way that will not cause pollution.

As soon as a decision is made to scrap the vehicle then it is an ELV. See the guidance on how you must scrap vehicles.

If a car restoration business strips a vehicle for parts to repair or restore a classic car they must have an environmental permit unless they can meet the criteria for a U16 exemption.

Stock car racing

The Environment Agency will not class a stock car as waste as long as the vehicle is:

  • only used for stock car racing
  • stored responsibly and does not cause pollution

As soon as you decide to scrap the car it is an ELV. See the guidance on how you must scrap vehicles.

If a business strips a vehicle for parts to repair or restore a stock car then the site must have an environmental permit unless the criteria for a U16 exemption is met.

Exporting damaged vehicles

The Environment Agency classes ELVs as waste and there are extra rules on their export. If you plan to export ELVs and you need advice on how to meet the export rules, contact the Environment Agency and ask for the International Waste Shipments team.

See the rules for importing and exporting waste.

Contact the Environment Agency

General enquiries

National Customer Contact Centre
PO Box 544
Rotherham
S60 1BY

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Due to the current health emergency we have reduced the times our phone lines are open. This is under review and we hope to be able to extend them soon. If possible please contact us by email at enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk.

The impact of COVID-19 on our teams means you may experience some delays in responses as most of our staff will be working from home. We are currently unable to deal with post sent to our offices in the usual way.

Published 1 August 2013
Last updated 6 September 2019 + show all updates
  1. Clarified what is classed as waste in sections 'End of life private vehicles' and 'End of life commercial vehicles'.

  2. Change to opening section: 'When an undepolluted ELV is transported you must fill in a consignment note unless it is an end of life private vehicle.' Change to section on end of life private vehicles: 'If a householder arranges transport of an unwanted vehicle to an ATF by a third party the vehicle is classed as hazardous waste when it arrives at the ATF. This means no consignment note is needed for the journey from the householder to the ATF. '

  3. First published.