What Happens to a Car When It’s Recycled?

Have you ever brought an old car to a scrap yard or handed it over to a dealer after the end of its working life? What happens after the title is signed over one last time?

The short answer is that the vehicle gets recycled. With the passage of regulations governing vehicle disposal all over the globe in recent decades, vehicle recycling has become ubiquitous. In fact, car recycling is more comprehensive than any other category of recycled products. According to one estimate, vehicle recycling has grown into a $22 billion per year industry worldwide.

Once a car has been scrapped, the first step is to drain it of any remaining fluids. Many of these fluids are themselves recyclable, with any excess gasoline, motor oil, engine coolant and windshield fluid typically being collected for reuse. Tires are also collected and their rubber is separated from its mesh wire underpinning, with both materials heading to a recycler. Recycled tires can be turned into everything from artificial turf to asphalt.

The next step is to remove salvageable components that can be reconditioned or re-sold in the $3 billion used parts marketplace. Used auto parts are a cost-effective and environmentally conscious alternative to newly manufactured replacement parts. They can represent a sizeable portion of a scrapped car’s remaining value. Some parts are sold wholesale to distributors, while others make their way to virtual marketplaces like eBay.

Once a car has been stripped of usable parts, the next step is to crush it and transport it to a shredding facility, where it will be pulverized into chunks no larger than the size of a softball. These chunks are then separated by magnets to remove plastics and glass from the steel, iron, aluminum and other metals, which make up the bulk of the recyclable materials in each car.

Recently recyclers have developed a range of new technologies allowing for the recovery and processing of plastics and glass. Currently, it’s estimated that roughly 75 percent of a car’s weight ends up being recycled. Each year, it’s estimated that vehicle recycling prevents more than 30 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. In the future, the portion of recoverable materials in cars is only expected to increase.

Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy ebay Green Driving.

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