The Cabinet approved a bill Friday that would oblige automakers and car importers to recycle three components of used vehicles and have consumers pay the costs.

The bill, drafted by the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, is designed to increase recycling of car parts and ease the burden on the nation’s brimming garbage dumps.

If enacted, the government plans to put the legislation into force at the end of 2004 after a two-year preparatory period, officials said.

The bill carries a different format than that of the Home Appliances Recycling Law, which charges consumers a processing fee when disposing of used items, which are returned to manufacturers.

The vehicle parts recycling bill would require money from consumers at the point of purchase or at the next inspection for vehicles already registered.

Recycling fees are to be set by manufacturers, which have yet to release any specific figures. However, officials estimate the fee will be in the neighborhood of 20,000 yen per car.

The money would be deposited in a fund until a vehicle is disposed of. Then, it would be used to destroy ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon gases and recycle air bags and shredder dust, which automakers and importers would be required to accept from junk dealers.

In recent years, vehicle recycling has leveled off as a plunge in steel prices and a jump in disposal costs mean that vehicle owners no longer receive cash for vehicles to be scrapped and are requested to pay for the service.

Currently, between 70 percent and 80 percent of a vehicle’s weight is typically reused as parts, including doors, or materials, such as aluminum. The remaining 25 percent or so is ground into a mulch of plastic, glass and metal known as shredder dust that is buried in landfills. This typically amounts to around 200 kg.

Technologies to reuse shredder dust are under development, and officials said they hope to increase the overall recycling rate per vehicle to around 95 percent by weight by 2015.

An estimated 5 million vehicles are disposed of annually, with nearly 20 percent of these being exported abroad. The bill also stipulates that cash would be paid to owners of cars that are exported and not recycled domestically. Unclaimed money would be used to manage the system, officials said.

With more than 5.6 million new cars sold annually, the fund is expected to balloon to more than 1 trillion yen in its first year, leading to criticism that it is ripe for abuse.

Officials said that while there is nothing in the legislation to keep bureaucrats from being rehired for jobs related to the fund when they retire or otherwise prevent the fund from being abused, they realize it is an area that requires strict attention.

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