Scrap Yards and ATFs

Scrap yards are often shrouded in mystery – to many people they are this magical place where their old cars and vans go to never be seen again. But what are they? What do they do? Why are they so important? Let us take you through everything you need to know about your local scrap yard.


FAQ iconWhat is an ATF?

An ATF, or Authorised Treatment Facility to give them their full title, are scrap yards that follow a specific set of rules and regulations in relation to the dismantling and disposal of scrap cars. Any scrap yard, breaker’s yard or vehicle dismantler who has proven they follow strict rules set out by the Environmental Agency (EA) when it comes to End-of-Life Vehicles (ELVs).

FAQ iconWhat Guidelines do ATFs Have to Follow?

The guidelines set by the EA which ensures all ATFs perform correctly, allowing them to scrap cars in a responsible and legal manner. Any scrap yard that is not registered as an ATF is not allowed to depollute vehicles.

These guidelines can easily be broken down into five distinct areas below:

  • Have all correct planning permissions and permits to treat ELVs, including a scrap metal dealer’s licence and environmental permit
  • Be able to depollute or expertly dispose of any hazardous waste from vehicles
  • Supply Certificate of Destruction documents through the DVLA system to prove that the owner’s responsibility for the car has finished
  • Safely handle and store car parts
  • Meet recycling and recovery targets according to government regulations

FAQ iconWhat Happens to Your Car at an ATF?

Once your car has been collected it will be taken to an ATF, where the car will go through a few procedures before it is finally destroyed.

  • Depollution
    • The very first thing that happens is for your car to go through the depollution process, which sees all hazardous materials and parts removed from the vehicle. This will consist of elements including the fuel, battery, catalytic converter, the petrol tank and any liquids still in the car such as oil, brake fluid, antifreeze and coolant. These are removed first so that the ATF can be sure that there’s no risk to humans, animals or the environment during the remainder of the scrapping process.
    • They will also carefully remove anything potentially explosive – like the airbag – and the engine and exhaust systems will be disconnected. Any part of the vehicle that housed fluids will be flushed through with water, ensuring they are completely clean before moving on.
  • Dismantlement
    • Following the depollution process, the vehicle will now be completely cleared of any hazardous materials and dismantling can begin, working its way through the engine, undercarriage and main body of the car.
    • A number of elements removed during this process will be able to be reused or recycled elsewhere, such as the following:
      • Tyres: Just because they’re no longer rolling along doesn’t mean tyres are now useless. Tyres can have a number of new uses, often being used as garden planters, or in children’s playgrounds. They have also been repurposed into flooring for football pitches.
      • Glass windows: Glass is one of the most versatile substances around, and your old windscreen could well end up, once it’s been melted down, as a new bottle, jar or vase. Broken glass can even be turned into ornaments or mosaics.
      • Dashboard plastics: Much like the plastics you can recycle at home, the plastic from your dashboard, and anywhere else in the car for that matter, will get repurposed into any number of items, including garden furniture or rubbish bins.
      • Leather interiors: If you’d paid the extra for the leather trim in your car, fear not, as it won’t be going to waste when it heads to the scrap yard. Any leather from the car will get reused and could very well be on a belt or handbag you buy in future.

There are a wide range of recyclable options in cars, and for a detailed explanation of how cars can be recycled, visit our blog post on the very subject.

  • Destruction
    • Once the car has been stripped of all of its usable elements, it will be left with just the frame, and – the most satisfying part of the process – crushing can begin. Once it has been crushed, the final metals will be separated at a metal mill. The metals on a car have a thin layer of tin for protection, this will be removed and the steel will be melted down to be used again for a wide range of items – including the production of brand new cars, so you can think of your car simply as a phoenix waiting to rise up from the ashes as someone drives their new car off the forecourt.

All of these steps, however, will take place long after your involvement has ended. Once the car has been taken from you and you have received your payment, you can rest easy knowing your old car is being recycled and repurposed in the best possible way, while you can sit and figure out how you’re going to spend the money you’ve just been given.

FAQ iconWhat if a Scrap Yard isn’t an ATF?

If you take a vehicle to be dismantled or disposed of to a scrap yard that is not ATF registered then they may be breaking the law. Dismantling cars involves a lot of hazardous components and fluids, and if these are not dealt with correctly could result in environmental issues further down the road. You will only be able to receive a Certificate of Destruction from a certified ATF, and without one of these, you do not have confirmation that the car has been depolluted or recycled under government and Environment Agency rules.

FAQ iconHow Can I Tell if a Scrap Yard is an ATF?

If you’re looking to check if your local scrap yard is officially authorised to dispose of cars, then you can check the relevant database for your country. In England this is available online at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for Welsh ATFs you can check the Natural Resources Wales database, while in Scotland you’ll find all you need to know through the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. The database requires you to input any details of the scrap yard you have and it will let you know if it is a registered ATF or not, or alternatively you can download details of all 1500+ ATFs across the country.

FAQ iconHow Do We Work With Scrap Yards?

Here at Scrap Car Comparison, we have whittled down the exhaustive list of ATFs to only the very best, and we’re here to do all the legwork of getting your car to the nearest yard as soon as possible. Following conversations with yourself, we will then pass on the details of your vehicle to our trusted and respected buyers, and once an agreed collection date is set in stone, will come out to you, make their collection and – the part you’ve been waiting for – transfer payment to you.

If you’re looking to get started straight away, our friendly team will be delighted to speak to you and set the wheels in motion. Every valuation and quote we provide are with fully licensed ATF scrap yards, so you know that not only will you be getting the very best price for your car, but you will also be safe in the knowledge that your vehicle will be disposed of responsibly, safely and, most importantly, legally.