Australia is facing an unforeseen environmental disaster if the Federal Government continues to ignore the hundreds of thousands of vehicles being dumped across the nation each year.
796,970 vehicles were sent to landfill in 2018. That’s an area of 7,879,761.9 square metres – enough to fill the MCG 445 times – based on the dimensions of Australia’s top selling vehicle, the Toyota HiLux. Parked nose-to-tail, the total length would about the distance from Sydney to Auckland and back again.
This year close to one million end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) will be piled on top of that, and with Australians purchasing over 1.2 million vehicles in 2018, including 378,413 passenger cars, 495,300 SUVs, 279,398 commercial vehicles and 95,080 motorcycles, this problem will continue to compound.
“Embarrassingly, Australia currently does not have a national policy dealing with ELVs, which leaves the auto recycling sector vulnerable to environmental breaches and rogue traders,” says Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce CEO, Geoff Gwilym.
According to Yale University, out of 180 countries, Australia ranks only 21st in the world on its Environmental Performance Index with a global ranking of 13 for water/sanitation; 46 for heavy metal exposure; 61 for biodiversity and habitat; 98 in climate and energy; and 99 for biome protection.
Landfill is a serious concern. Manufactured from metals (steel, cooper and aluminium); glass, rubber and plastics, vehicles also contain oils and lubricants, detergents, and liquid fuel (petrol, diesel or liquid petroleum gas); along with leather, wool and vinyl, and in some luxury cars, carbon fibre.
Many older vehicles contain asbestos in items such as brake linings and engine gaskets. Batteries can contain nickel, cobalt, silicon, lithium and graphite. All of these items are a potential threat to Australia’s environmental integrity if they infest the air, or leach into the earth or waterways.
With plastic having a half-life of up to 1,000 years and metals much longer than that, the time for the Federal Government to implement a national ELV plan is now.