Sims Pacific Metals yard manager Phil Atkins with car bales. Photo: Judene Edgar.

Metal price drop leads to more car dumping

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Tumbling international prices and increasing freight costs for scrap metal have seen the market for scrap metal bottom out, and a 37 per cent increase in abandoned vehicles in the Tasman district, mainly dumped on river banks and in forestry blocks.

The issue is also affecting Nelson city, with 36 abandoned vehicles picked up in the past ten months.

Ian from Tasman Parts World says, with the current international price slump that there’s simply no overseas market anymore and that it’s just not worth it.

“My yard is full and there’s a real process to get rid of them,” he says.

“If we scrap a car out we’re lucky to get $20 and it might cost us $80 to get it.”

Murray Smith from Sims Pacific Metals, which has the only car baler in the region, says they can only accept cars that have been drained of all fluids – air conditioner gases, fuel and oil – due to the risks associated with flammable materials.

“We’re still offering a free dump, but often people can’t be bothered,” says Murray.

“Ten years ago light gauge metal from cars, whiteware and corrugated would have been put in the landfill, but now it’s all recycled.”

While Sims can directly export heavy gauge metals, once crushed and baled, the light gauge metal needs to be transported to Christchurch, and because of the earthquake, freight costs have increased.

Tasman District Council’s control services officer Ross Connochie says not too many years ago you’d get $300 from a scrap metal dealer for a car.

“But now they’ll charge you.”

In addition to the environmental and visual impacts, Ross says there is also a cost to the ratepayers. Last year the council spent $13,000 collecting dumped cars, up from $5000 previous year.

Nelson Environment Centre manager Karen Driver suggests that the solution is for the government to declare it a priority product.

“End-of-life vehicle ‘product stewardship’ schemes are in place in a number of countries, whereby a levy is paid by the industry that covers the cost of disposal. However, the government haven’t implemented such a scheme due to the historic high value of scrap metal which was seen to incentivise recycling.”