New rules imposing stringent standards on vehicle recyclers and making the last owner responsible for costs could make Britain’s abandoned car problem much worse, according to the latest research by European Metal Recycling.

European rules on the disposal of defunct vehicles, expected to be enforced in the United Kingdom this year, will require dismantlers and recyclers to invest in specialist equipment to drain the fluids from vehicles, remove specified parts and ensure the last owner receives a certificate of destruction.

In a statement released last week, the Department of Trade and Industry predicted a 50% decline in the number of facilities continuing to take vehicles and properly equipped to meet the new standards – from 4,000 to 1,750 outlets – suggesting the last owner may have to travel further to dispose of a car.

The department also indicated that consumers needing to dispose of old cars over the next three years may be expected to pay up to £30 to meet the new treatment standards and believes it would not be unreasonable for people to travel up to 10 miles in the future.

Graeme Carus, director of business development at European Metal Recycling, said: “Operators meeting the requirements of the legislation have no choice but to look to the last owner to pay, or at least contribute toward, the costs of disposal. It’s clear we need to be paid for the service and treatment standards must be properly enforced.”

He also pointed to the findings of a recent MORI survey, in which 24% of respondents from lower income households – the segment of the population most likely to own defunct vehicles – indicated that they were not prepared to pay the costs of disposal.

The research also revealed a widespread concern among the British public that the new laws may lead to more abandoned vehicles. Given a conservative estimate that a £20 charge may be levied, a significant 74% of respondents thought more vehicles would be abandoned, with 40% predicting a major increase in the number of vehicles littering Britain’s streets.