SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is offering $1,200 to get some of the oldest and worst polluting cars off the road, as part of a buyback program.

“Our vehicle buyback program pays owners of older, more polluting cars, vans and small trucks to trade in their vehicles voluntarily,” says Erin DeMerritt, a spokesperson for the district.

DeMerritt said removing even a single older model car from the road eliminates roughly 75 pounds of airborne pollution over the course of a single year.

Ed Hollshwandner took advantage of the buyback program for his 27-year-old Subaru.

“It’s the Subaru that we brought my daughter home from the hospital in,” Hollshwandner told KPIX 5.

The car was so reliable and long-running it was featured in one of the automaker’s ads, having been passed from father to teenage daughter and back again, over the course of nearly three decades on the road.

“It was just time. A 27-year-old car obviously just doesn’t have the same pollution quality controls as a current vehicle,” he said.

To be eligible, the cars must be model year 1997 or older. Vehicles need to be in working condition and must have been registered in the state of California for at least the past two years.

Some, however, wonder if people aren’t holding onto these older cars not because they’re not concerned about the environment but because of economics.

“We understand the need to protect the environment, for sure. But the economic reality of so many people, especially that I’ve worked with, is that’s all they can afford,” said Pastor Scott Wagers, an advocate for the homeless and affordable housing.

Bay Area Air Quality Management District officials said the program is entirely voluntary. According to DeMerritt, they managed to get roughly 3,000 older cars off the road last year.

More information about the buyback program can be found on the agency’s website.