The theory of ecological modernization asserts that economic and environmental goals can be integrated within a framework of industrial modernity. Its central tenet is that environmental regulation can stimulate the application of ‘clean’ technologies or techniques. Ecological modernization also contends that environmental regulation can offer business benefits from innovation through improved product design and economic performance. The EU End of Life Vehicles Directive (ELVD) reflects many of these principles, as it compels all car manufacturers to ‘take back’ and dismantle vehicles at the end of their useful lives and to remove the hazardous substances from the production process. Each component will then be either reused or recycled. The legislation forces designers to introduce ‘clean design’ and ‘design for disassembly’ practices. In light of this, we examine the impact of the directive on UK automotive component manufacturers. We find limited evidence that the EU ELVD Directive has driven product innovation beyond short-term, incremental technological trajectories. We therefore conclude that a more radical approach, in line with the ‘dematerialization’ thesis by Dobers and Wolff (1999), is needed to generate more radical, ecological design solutions within the UK automotive industry. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.
- EU End of Life Vehicles Directive