Automotive Recycling Resources

In the U.S., cars and the open highway are often considered the ultimate symbol of freedom. Every day, there are an abundance of vehicles that fill the roads, providing people with the ability to travel in and around town, the state, and the country. Unfortunately, cars negatively impact the environment in a number of ways, from emitting harmful gases into the atmosphere to contributing to landfills. Great strides are being made to improve this, from the way that cars are being designed to the way that they are disposed of after they are no longer viable for driving. One important method of doing this is through recycling. According to the EPA, there are twenty-seven million cars annually that are recycled around the world. This totals an estimated 25 million tons of recyclable materials.

Automotive recycling is a key factor in reducing how much of an unwanted vehicle ends up in landfills. Although auto recycling may be getting more attention in recent years, it is hardly new; in fact, the business of recycling has been around for more than 75 years. Modern recyclers recover oil, gasoline, and other fluids such as antifreeze for reuse either by their own company or by customers. Any undamaged, functional parts of the car, such as the engine, tires, radios, transmissions, bumpers and more, are also removed from the vehicle. They are then inspected, cleaned, and tested before they are stored for resale at used car parts stores and auto repair garages. This part of the recycling process is known as the dismantling stage. Following the dismantling stage comes the crushing and shredding of the remains of the retired vehicle. Once the vehicle has been crushed it goes through a vehicle shredder. Shredding breaks the car down into pieces of iron, steel and aluminum metals. These metals are sent to plants where they are melted for reuse. In addition to iron, steel, and aluminum, shredding also leaves auto shredder residue, or ASR, behind. ASR is a combination of fabric, wood, plastics, paper, dirt, glass, and rubber that cannot be recycled. The ASR amounts to approximately twenty percent of the vehicle's materials, and it is the portion of the car that ends up in landfills.

The benefits of recycling are obvious in some ways, and in others they are not so apparent. By removing parts from a vehicle it reduces the need to manufacture new parts. This saves energy that would normally be required to create the parts. As noted, a majority of the vehicle is salvaged or recycled, which reduces the amount of material that actually ends up in landfills. Because oils and other fluids do not end up landfills, they won't leach into the ground and contaminate groundwater. The recycling of steel, iron and aluminum also reduces the amount of energy that is used to produce them from their virgin state, and also decreases the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases that are associated with their production. Recycling aluminum results in a ninety-five percent energy savings, as opposed to making it new. By using scrap steel and iron that has been recycled from vehicles, the amount of water and air pollution is decreased by over half. According to Stanford University, 42Kwh of energy, 10.9 billion BTU of energy, 1.8 barrels of oil, and four cubic yards of space within a landfill are saved when one ton of steel is recycled. In addition to the environmental benefits, consumers also save money when they buy second-hand parts.

Recycling is the best way to salvage the parts of a vehicle once it has reached the end of its usable service. This process is one that has been around for many years, and is so common that it has made cars the leading recycled item in the entire U.S. The resulting availability of second-hand parts and scrap metals are beneficial to the consumer and to the environment in a number of ways. Through the recycling process, a car is able to continue giving, long after it is no longer driven on the road.

For more information about automotive recycling and its benefits on cars and trucks please read the following articles.