Strategies for Managing Impacts from Automobiles | Region 10 | US EPA

Jump to main content.


Strategies for Managing Impacts from Automobiles

Product Stewardship Information

On this page:

Traditionally, environmental policy on automobiles has focused on fuel efficiency and end-of-pipe emissions. Meanwhile waste management, resource-consumption, and toxicity issues persist with far less attention from governments, regulators, and industry. A complete understanding the environmental issues pertaining to automobiles requires attention to the materials and toxicity impacts of automobiles at each stage of the product lifecycle. The following brief paragraphs offer a sampling of programs and policies that seek to incorporate lifecycle considerations into their treatment of automobiles. Identifying and understanding these programs is an important first step towards a materials and toxicity-neutral auto industry.

Carnegie Mellon Green Design Initiative

The Carnegie Mellon Green Design Initiative has developed a Lifecycle Analysis tool that enables users to quantify the environmental impacts of automobiles at all lifecycle stages. The LCA assessment tool utilizes comprehensive economic data and input-output techniques to provide accurate measurements of materials and toxicity associated with different life-cycle scenarios. The user is able to measure materials use and toxics released for a given amount of economic output in sectors that make up the automobile industry. These sectors include the manufacturing of steel, plastics, textiles, chemicals, and automobiles as a whole. Such an approach allows manufacturers and policymakers to identify the largest environmental impacts of the automobile industry and focus their efforts accordingly. In addition, this tool accounts for materials used and toxics released throughout each lifecycle phase, allowing for a more accurate comparison of the true environmental impacts of our choices regarding automobiles. EU Directive and IDIS

The European Union’s End-of-life Vehicle (ELV) Directive seeks to lessen the environmental impacts of vehicles at the end of their useful lives. It requires the reuse or recycling of 95% of all vehicle materials by weight by 2015. In addition, it ensures that ELVs are processed so as to collect and safely store harmful pollutants such as lead, mercury, oil, and brake fluid. To assist dismantlers in complying with this directive, European auto manufacturers have created the International Dismantling Information System (IDIS). The IDIS is a detailed instructional guide to identifying, pre-treating, and removing all toxic automobile components while preventing the release of environmental pollutants. The system is organized by brand and component category to maximize ease of use and prevent misinformation.

Clean Car Campaign

The Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan has developed a multi-faceted approach to addressing the environmental and health impacts of automobiles. The Clean Car Campaign identifies, evaluates, and publicizes the human and environmental health effects of car interiors. The campaign also organizes the Lead-Free Wheels Program, which endeavors to phase out the use of lead wheel weights and to increase domestic production of lead-free alternatives. In addition to working with government and industry to identify and remove toxic chemicals from vehicles, the Clean Car Campaign promotes the development and use of sustainable plastics in the auto industry. Finally, the campaign helps coordinate the Partnership for Mercury-Free Vehicles, which brings together environmental groups and members of the auto recycling industry to address the releases of mercury from vehicles.

Korea’s Vehicle Recycling Program

Korea has recently begun to enforce Recycling of Electrical and Electronic Equipment and Vehicles. This legislation aims to promote automobile stewardship by making it easier for vehicles to be properly recycled. It does this by requiring recyclability in automobile design, restricting the use of hazardous materials, and managing the entire vehicle lifecycle. The Act requires vehicle manufacturers and importers to support automobile recycling technology either through funding or by developing the technology themselves. It also requires vehicle scrappers to separate and store hazardous materials. Under the program, the costs of recycling and disposing these materials are to be added to the cost of Korean end-of-life vehicles.

Green Suppliers Network

The Green Suppliers Network is a resource that helps manufacturers use materials more efficiently. Through inexpensive technical reviews, the Network helps suppliers create customized strategies for decreasing their environmental impacts while increasing their bottom line. Based on the premise that decreasing environmental waste will decrease costs and add value to production, the Green Suppliers Network offers an innovative mechanism to create lasting reductions in the materials and toxicity impacts of the auto industry.

Certification Programs

There are several certification programs that aim to reduce the environmental impacts of auto-related activities. For example, EPA’s Environmental Results Program is an alternative to traditional environmental permitting currently used in the automobile repair and salvage industries. The program requires self-audits and uses self-certification to signify compliance with environmental regulations. Such an approach is useful in areas such as the auto repair industry in which many small entities create a substantial collective impact on the environment. Other certification schemes, such as the Sustainable Annapolis Environmental Stewardship Certification Program, offer incentives for voluntary compliance with rigorous environmental standards. Under this initiative, auto repair shops in Annapolis, Maryland gain recognition for superior environmental performance by earning points for certain behaviors that reduce materials and toxicity impacts to levels well below current requirements.


Local Navigation


URL: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/OWCM.NSF/Product+Stewardship/autos-strategies

Jump to main content.