Old cars must be dismantled in official scrap yards under new EU regulations

Abandoning an old car without a licence plate in a remote area used to be a common way of getting rid of an unwanted vehicle here in the Czech Republic. But European Union accession has changed the rules for drivers as well as for owners of car breaking yards.

Since May 1 this year all cars have to be disposed of in a legal way, which means that, by law, they have to be taken to an officially registered scrap yard, where they are later dismantled. Car owners are then issued a document which they take to the police, who remove the car from their records. For their part, operators of breaking yards are obliged to respect the environment, and now have to meet strict regulations and requirements.

Martin Stifter, head of sewage department at the Czech Environmental Inspectorate.

"One significant change is that there's now a list of authorised breaking yards put together by the Ministry of the Environment. Only authorised car scrap yards can take or buy a wreck from its owners, and issue the document owners have to take to the police. It was not like that before. Scrap yards have to document what they do with wrecks and, spare parts, and whether they turn it in to scrap iron, or where they emit car oil and other liquids etc."

The Czech Environmental Inspectorate has so far this year checked 21 such breaking yards, many of which have been fined; three have even been closed down. Mr Benes runs a car scrap yard near the little village of Milin. Earlier this year he was fined 120,000 crowns for not meeting all the new regulations. He has since reduced the number of wrecks at his scrap yard by half, laid concrete where the cars are stored and plans to build a workshop where cars can be dismantled. Mr Benes had it easier before EU accession.

"I have always tried to do something for the environment. I have told people to bring their tires here rather than dumping them somewhere in a wood, although I had to pay for it. What really annoys me is that before we entered the European Union no one really cared and now they all think that everything can be changed in six months. If I don't have this company here but hide it in my garden and sell only spare parts no one will know anything. There are plenty of such advertisements in the newspapers."

Mr Benes admits he could do more, but he also says officials have given more favourable treatment to others, such as farmers who receive subsidies. But he and others who dispose of the Czech Republic's unwanted old cars will have to get used to being closely monitored.