There are about 12-15 million end-of-life vehicles found each year in the United States. However, the metal used to produce these automobiles is still useful. Vehicle recycling involves taking apart vehicles and keeping any spare parts that are useful in future manufacturing. The vehicle dismantling industry exists because there is a wealth of salvageable materials that recyclers extract from destroyed vehicles.
The process must remain cost-effective. Manufacturers make sure that the materials they yield outweigh the cost of the vehicle recycling process. If it is more expensive to recycle the materials than to manufacture new ones, then the vehicle recycling process has been unsuccessful.
The Manufacturer’s Role
Although vehicle recycling has been around for years, manufacturers are now participating in the industry. Manufacturers have made an effort to use materials that are recyclable in the future. That is, up to 75 percent of each vehicle they manufacture is made from recyclable materials. These end-of-life vehicles are a great source of metal for the steel mill.
Simply put, the process involves tearing the car to shreds, keeping the metal for recycling, and sending everything else to the landfill. However, the fully detailed process is more intricate. This is mostly due to the number of parts that recyclers need to recycle. In addition, many of these parts are hazardous and require careful handling.
First, the recycler must inventory the incoming vehicles for parts. A consumer can often find great dealers at an auto recycler. For example, a used air flow meter is much cheaper than a new air flow meter, and a used power steering pump can save you quite a bit of money too! Used fans also help to keep costs down when repairing a car.
Then, he or she must inspect the car for leaks by turning on the engine. Namely, the recycler must drain and remove all fluids such as battery, mercury, and sodium azide. These are all hazardous materials that are found in different parts of the vehicle. For example, sodium azide is the propellant used in airbags and can be easily overlooked if not careful.
Finally, after extracting these hazardous materials, the recycler can use the car crusher to crush the remaining shell of the vehicle and can then harvest the vehicle for recyclable materials. That is, most yards use a car crusher to make the car more compact and to make it easier for transportation to the steel mill.
Furthermore, there are other materials beside metal that can be used for recycling. For example, 30 percent of the residue often has materials that can be made into polymers. 5-10 percent is usable for residual metals.
The Benefits of Vehicle Recycling
Recycling end-of-life vehicles, thereby recycling steel, saves energy and natural resources. To put things into perspective, it is useful to note that the energy saved could power 18 million households per year, every year. In addition, recycling metal requires 74 percent less energy than to make metal from scratch.
As a result, recyclers save about 85 million barrels of oil that would instead be used to manufacture other parts. Lastly, vehicle recycling helps prevent mercury from getting into the environment. For example, in 2007 6265 recyclers were able to collect over 2100 pounds of mercury. Thus, vehicle recycling not only saves the steel industry money but it protects the environment, too.