Illegal scrapyards encouraged

The new Highway Code approved on July 24 by the PSD, PS, CDS-PP and BE parties (with the PEV abstaining) continues to permit the cancellation of car number plates without the presentation of a certificate proving the vehicle’s destruction, which is compulsory by law in Portugal and across the European Union.

The irregularity has been highlighted by Quercus, the national association for nature conservation, which has been calling on the State to rectify the same anomalies for more than seven years.

Members of the environmental watchdog together with Valorcar – a private non-profit organisation responsible for the scrapping and recycling of so-called End of Life Vehicles (ELV) – and other official bodies including the Inspectorate General of Agriculture, Sea, Environment and Territorial Planning, have called for a revision of parts of the proposed new Code to eliminate the possibility of ELV being abandoned in or delivered to scrap-yards operating without a licence, thus encouraging illegal ELV management.

Quercus argues that the Highway Code actively promotes illegal ELV management by virtue of the wording and lack of full legal descriptions within given paragraphs.

It also points out that the practice of illegal ELV management can also result in a loss of tax revenue in that cancellation of a vehicle registration plate results in the cessation of the Imposto Único de Circulação (IUC) – the Single Circulation Tax levied on vehicle ownership.

In one paragraph for example, the new Code states that if a vehicle has disappeared and its location remains unknown for six months then the owner is exempt from paying IUC. This provision, says Quercus, enables the delivery of a vehicle to an illegal scrapyard, or its abandonment in a public place, while allowing the owner to cease paying IUC and not having to declare a certificate of destruction.

As a deterrent in this case, Quercus proposes extending the deadline from six months to at least one year before the vehicle owner is exempt from paying IUC.

In a wider context, Quercus also points out that illegal ELV operations contribute significantly towards environmental pollution through unsupervised hazardous waste disposal. They can also breach public health and safety regulations.

Meanwhile, Quercus and Valorcar are waiting to see if the publication of the new Highway Code approved last month will incorporate their recommendations. The President of Portugal Cavaco Silva is expected to ratify the document later this year.