There's no arguing that the various Cash for Clunkers-style programs all around the world are intended first and foremost to spur lagging automobile sales. Environmental concerns have taken a back seat to helping automakers and dealerships move some more metal. Still, at least we know that the barely-running pollution-spewing machines are headed to the great junkyard in the sky, right?

Not so fast. At least in Germany, there are a number of Clunkers that didn't meet their intended demise due in equal parts nefarious criminals and legislation that didn't explicitly require the trade-ins to be properly disposed of. Here in the States, Clunkers are killed via an injection of sodium silicate after the oil has been drained out. In Germany, the dealership is required only to drop the car off at a junkyard.

According to Ronald Schulze, an expert with the Association of Criminal Investigators, as many as 50,000 old cars and trucks have been snatched from the clutches of the crusher and exported outside Germany where they may continue to emit pollutants for quite some time. Some even end up back in Germany after being exported to other European countries. Another case of unintended consequences?

[Source: NY Times via Treehugger]
Photo by dno1967. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.

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