The traffic register in Estonia lists 860,000 vehicles of which around 290,000 have had their entries suspended. This means that virtually every third vehicle is unused, while some of them have simply been left to rot.
Piret Otsason, adviser at the Ministry of Climate's environmental management department, said that dangerous fluids can leak from a vehicle that's just left standing.
"In addition to fuel, there may be motor and transmission oils. There are also refrigerants from AC systems, which may include cadmium, chromium and lead.
Wrecks that get in the way of traffic and street cleaning, take up parking spaces and pose an environmental risk constitute a problem for cities. A parking lot in Tartu's Annelinna district has around ten such wrecks inhabited by homeless people.
Rein Haak, head of the Southern Estonian city's municipal economy department, described such abandoned vehicles as a major problem.
"They're a problem not just for the city but also apartment associations and private residence owners," he said.
Haak said that owners of such vehicles react to the city government's notifications in roughly half of cases.
Tallinn has also mapped problematic vehicles in its boroughs, Deputy Mayor Tiit Terik said.
"The city's municipal police force (MUPO) managed to remove over 500 such vehicles from the streets last year. That is two cars every working day. We have removed 100 wrecks so far this year, with 150 cases in the works," Terik said.
In cases where it proves impossible to determine the owner, MUPO can launch misdemeanor proceedings and impound the vehicle.
"If we cannot find the owner over a longer period of time and people fail to respond to notifications, we can also have the vehicle scrapped," the deputy mayor said.
Estonia's plans to introduce a car tax next year have motivated owners to try and get rid of their scrap cars. Siim Sellik, executive manager of the Estonian Automotive Recyclers' Association, said that such requests have doubled.
"Fear of the impending tax has convinced people to get rid of vehicles that were just standing around waiting to perhaps be fixed up or used again," Sellik said.
In addition to scrapyards, Estonia has around 55 body shops that recycle parts stripped from vehicles that are past their prime. Waste management reports suggest around 18,000 cars were recycled in Estonia in 2020. The parts that cannot be sold individually are collected by type and sold in bulk.
Editor: Marcus Turovski