More than 150 auto-industry watchers, government officials, and academics from South Korea, Japan, and China got together at the end of October in Seoul for a three-day automotive environmental forum held and sponsored by Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group for the first such meeting in Asia.
The 150 participants—117 from South Korea, 24 from Japan, and 13 from China—sat down in a Seoul hotel and discussed government environmental policies, hazardous materials, ELV (end-of-life vehicle) treatment technologies, and life-cycle assessment.
On the first day of the forum, the participants talked about the European Union’s REACH (registration, evaluation, authorization, and restriction of chemicals) program, a group of new chemical regulations with registration, evaluation, and authorization for chemical substances exceeding one ton per year in the EU market.
Those chemical substances include those produced in the EU or imported from outside the region.
The new regulation came into force June 1, 2007.
“Amid continuing global warming, environment-related issues such as (the search for) alternative energy, recycling of used materials, and less use of hazardous materials [are] gaining more attention in [global] social and economic communities,” Hyun-Soon Lee, Chief Technology Officer of Hyundai-Kia Corporate Research and Development (R&D) Division, told the participants on the opening day of the forum.
Lee said Hyundai-Kia had begun to prepare for “environmental management” in 2003. The auto group, which controls more than 70% of South Korea’s auto market, believed that its sustainable growth potential was tied to “more environment-friendly corporate management.”
As a result of Hyundai-Kia Group’s efforts to absorb market needs more quickly in the future from potential customers, who are becoming more interested in environment-friendly cars, Lee now is also the head of the automotive group’s market research department.
Like other automakers, Lee said Hyundai-Kia is also pushing to develop new technologies that could reduce emissions to effectively zero.
He expects the Seoul environmental forum to open a wide and solid stage for Asian automakers so that they, together, could map out environmental policies and do joint research work to develop more environmentally friendly technologies.
In Japan next year, the second round of the Asian Automotive Environmental Forum is scheduled to be held for two days in November. ELV recycling policy, enhancement of technical cooperation, and ways to strengthen partnerships are expected to be on the agenda, Japanese auto officials said. Details on the main sponsor or organizer have not been finalized yet, they said.
"Environment regulations is now spreading around the globe, and target substances are expanding as seen in the emergence of new environment regulations such as REACH,” said Kyung-sun Yun, an environment and technology team manager at Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA).
To prepare for REACH, Yun said KAMA, beginning in May 2007, began to operate a REACH task force team, which is lined up with South Korea’s five automakers, Hyundai, Kia, GM Daewoo Auto Technology, Ssangyong, and Renault Samsung.
The team has held eight meetings and created a Korean-language version of the “Automotive Industry Guideline on REACH” made by global automakers in 2007. It also held seminars to search for ways to offer educational programs for South Korea’s automotive parts suppliers.
On the government side, a REACH Business Center was opened at the Korean Ministry of Knowledge and Economy in 2006, and a REACH task force team was set up at the Korean Ministry of Environment because the government believes that effective and efficient coping with REACH will enhance the competitiveness of Korean companies including auto and chemical ones.
The KAMA official said the government offices and KAMA are helping each other in analyzing REACH information and distribution, monitoring new trends from the EU, and publishing REACH registration guidelines as well as questions and answers regarding REACH. He said South Korean automakers are currently doing preregistration of four items—windshield washer fluid, airbag compressed gas, fire extinguishers, and fragrance dispensers—with the EU.
“The Korean government and KAMA is fully supporting the Korean automotive industry to more efficiently cope with REACH,” said the KAMA official, adding that KAMA and the government is supporting automakers in preregistration and registration, organizing a REACH specialist pool for education, consulting, and analyzing chemicals.
Chen Ming, a professor of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, called on Asian automakers to establish an Asian Strategic Alliance of Auto Recovery Technology, which could strengthen sustainable development of the Asian automotive industry by controlling the consumption of resources, relieving the burden on the environment, and bearing international responsibility.
“China, Japan, South Korea, and India belong to East Asia, broader political and cultural exchanges, and higher mutual economic dependence,” Chen said. “In the coming decade, the automobile production and sales of the East Asian region will account for half of the world’s.”
Through the establishment of an information exchange and consultation mechanism, the Asian Strategic Alliance will coordinate Sino-Korean-Japanese trilateral exchanges as well as cooperation in science and technology on the green auto industry, Chen said.
He said the Strategic Alliance could be actively promoting green auto industry policy under the 21st century’s new environment system in China, South Korea, and Japan through the government, research institutions, and community groups through visits, exchanges, and cooperation.
Regarding ELV dismantling, Chen said there are 356 qualified ELV dismantlers in China and more than 800 take-back stations in the municipal cities, which are armed with a total dismantling capacity of 1.2 million vehicles per year.
“However, China’s ELV recovery industry is still facing some significant issues, not least the fact that improper disposal of hazardous substances and a lack of environmental protection measures are common in vehicles dismantling operations,” said Chen, adding that the cutting of scrap metals with oxygen torches often takes place in dismantling yards where there is no shelter.
“At the same time, waste liquid collection and ground seepage control facilities are often insufficient. Hazardous substances such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and other heavy metals are often improperly treated as common waste, leading to severe pollution,” Chen told the forum.
Regarding the current status and issues on ELV recycling between Japan and other Asian countries, Tohoku University Associate Professor Yu Jeong-soo noted that the definition between used cars and ELVs is still ambiguous, and (Japan’s) recycling and dismantling technologies have an obvious effect on the recycling systems and policies in developing countries.
Another issue is the strong EPR (extended product responsibility) principle in South Korea, Yu said.
“How do they check and prove the recycling rate? Is a monitoring system available?” said Yu. He added that Japan and Korea will influence the outcome of ELV recycling policy in other Asian countries, and market watchers should, especially, pay attention to ELV recycling policy in China.