Old cars in a scrap yardVery soon, millions of Chinese vehicles will become scrap metal. Writer Martin Reintjes reports about a significant reason for this development in “China Moves to Scrap Highly Polluting Cars.”

A Serious National Issue

Unclean air from highly polluting vehicles became a serious problem in China during the past two decades. Dirty clouds caused by carbon monoxide emissions discolor the urban landscape of many large cities on the Chinese mainland. In fact, the toxic nature of this pollution has reached crisis levels.

Concern about the rising health and environmental costs caused the government to set auto-emission pollution standards requiring the removal of the most highly polluting vehicles within the next few years. In the meantime, China has adopted a system to clearly identify cleaner vehicles: cleaner cars carry a green label on the front windshield. By contrast, a yellow-colored sticker designates high emission automobiles and trucks.

Scrapping “Yellow” Cars

The China National Recycling Association reports about efforts to comply with new government regulations required the scrapping of the most highly polluting “yellow” cars. These measures took some 6 million vehicles off the streets in 2014 alone. The Chinese government hopes to gradually reduce the number of environmentally hazardous vehicles on the roads, a process that will eliminate roughly 13% of the nation’s 224 million vehicles within the next few years if the enforcement of the new regulations proceeds on schedule.

A report published by the Reuters News Agency indicates that in 2013, Chinese authorities claimed some 14.2% of their nation’s annual budget went towards energy conservation and greater environmental protection. In Beijing, the capital city, officials slated some 330,000 polluting vehicles for decommission in 2014, for instance.

Martin Reintjes indicates that across China, local governments strive to curb the dirtiest vehicles. Heilongjiang Province witnessed the removal of 200,000 polluting “yellow” cars, with around 160,000 severely polluting ones entering recycling. By 2016, the province expects to have 400,000 additional environmentally unsound vehicles off the roadways.

Local Standards

As a result of the pollution issue, many of China’s largest cities developed policies to eliminate yellow cars. Unfortunately, of the 74 leading urban areas, only three reached environmental targets last year. Yet if the roll out of the new anti-pollution measures proceed on schedule, by 2017 every major city will eliminate the worst polluting automobiles. Hopefully, this will result in improved air quality for residents.

In fact, the CRRA believes most regions in China now adhere to anti-pollution policies. Some cities have enacted additional standards designed to alleviate air problem. For example, automobiles carrying the yellow sticker cannot use the streets in Hangzhou at any hour of the day except between low-peak hours from Midnight until 6 a.m.

These environmental measures indicate that very likely, millions of vehicles will enter recycling in China by the end of the decade, possibly by 2018. That trend would herald good news for the air in many of the nation’s metropolitan areas.