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Recycle my Car - Why Scrap your Car

Posted in General

There comes a point during each car’s life where they will no longer be economical or safe to drive. This then leads to a decision about whether to sell the car for scrap by recycling the car or not. This article will outline the reasons why you should always recycle your old car, and also the advantages for doing so.

Recycling your car is a very controlled and efficient process. This means that it reduces any types of waste, and minimises any risk of emissions and impact on the environment.

In the past, many cars were sent to a landfill, which now of course is frowned upon. Sure, it was a quicker and easier method of getting rid of your old car, but the risks associated with dumping your vehicle in landfill were many. For example, car battery acid could leak from the car, not to mention the depletion of raw materials in the long term, which then negatively impacts the value of these raw materials moving forward.

Old vehicles are referred to as ELVs (End of Life Vehicles), and there is a whole directorate monitoring these ELVs and their recycling process making sure that as much raw materials are recycled and reused as possible, reducing the hazardous chemical emissions and waste to benefit the environment.

These ELVs generate around eight million tons of waste every year in Europe alone, and if not handled properly, this waste would build up and be hazardous for the not only those who live there, but also the atmosphere.

The method of recycling and the construction of massive scrap yards in almost every town is actually more profitable for you as a car owner compared to sending your car to landfill, as well as being kinder to the environment. This recycling process reduces the impact by reusing almost 95% of the material in any vehicle.

The recycling process of your car

When you take your car to a scrap dealer, it does not directly go into a hydraulic machine or a shredder to come out as a cube of metal. In fact, the whole process of recycling your car is divided into different stages, depending upon the valuable materials present in it. Each of the materials utilised in the manufacturing process of your car i.e. plastic, metal, fabrics, rubber, chemicals etc. have value, and are removed in subsequent phases. 

The stages of recycling your old car are outlined below…

Depollution and removal of hazardous chemicals and fluids

The first stage in the recycling process is the removal of engine oil, brake fluid, battery fluid, transmission fluid, and coolant from the vehicle. These chemicals can be quite dangerous, so it is crucial that they are removed safely. This is done in order to prevent leakage and spread of these chemicals into the environment during the dismantling process. On its own, a couple of litres of fluid doesn’t do much harm, but thousands of cars being scrapped in a recycling plant can leave a bigger impact in terms of its fluid waste.

This fluid after removal is not wasted or dumped. It is then sent to a treatment facility. Processes like reverse osmosis, electrolysis, evaporation and crystallization are carried out to purify the liquid by taking out harmful chemicals through specialized membranes leaving behind water. The tanks and containers containing these fluids in the car are carefully flushed, so it does not impure the metal or plastic during their melting in the next stages.

Dismantling and reuse of the valuable components

After the car is free of any fluids and chemicals, the next stage is to carefully take out those components, which can either be reused after overhauling and maintenance, or can be used to manufacture other products.

Catalytic converter - Just like recycling reduces the emissions and waste of ELV’s, catalytic converters reduce the emissions from exhaust fumes during the normal operation of the car with the help of expensive metals like platinum, rhodium and palladium. Scrap car dealers always look for the catalytic converter, because of this expensive metal contained within it. The metal within the catalytic converter is usually sold for the manufacturing process of medical devices, and jewellery.

Tires - most of the tires in cars are resold to be used in other products containing rubber. These tires must be handled with care too. A specialised facility recycles these tires to be used in products such as carpets.

Glass and plastic components - A car contains many parts that are made of plastic, including bumpers, dashboards and inside door panels. Windows and plastic are usually removed before the car’s final stage of recycling. The plastic can either be recycled or resold, depending on the contacts that the local scrap yard has.

As well as these components, wires, ducts, fabric and leather are also removed to make the vehicle free from any impurity, leaving behind metal only. Car batteries also have different chemicals and metals contained within it, which is also carefully removed before sending the body to the shredder. These shredded parts are then sold to different processing and manufacturing factories to be used in new products.

Compressing and shredding

The outer body and chassis leftover is made of metal only. This metal body is crushed under a hydraulic press with a compactor, which changes the car into a box or cube of metal that can be sold as a raw material to many different industries. In some plants, the car is shredded instead of compressing depending on what it is being used for. This shredded or compressed metal is further melted to be drawn into different shapes at other metal processing plants. There is a good chance that you will be using recycled metal from old cars in the new car that you will drive away.

The reason behind recycling metal like this is to be as environmentally friendly as possible, with the added cost saving for both the car owner and other industries who make use of these raw materials. This keeps emissions as low as possible, and reduces waste, which is quite a topical issue at the moment. This is a small step towards achieving global sustainable development, as less fossil fuels and non-renewable sources will be used as a result.

Further reading