In today’s global marketplace, it is not uncommon for automobiles, regardless of where they are manufactured, to have parts in them that came from a variety of countries. Most American cars have more than 45% of their parts made outside North America.
The same process in reverse often occurs after a vehicle is scrapped, with parts and materials then being recycled to places all over the world. This phenomenon of global auto recycling is only increasing, with unforeseen long term results. The demand for recycled auto parts is fueled in part by the sheer increase in the quantity of automobiles and trucks being produced. Today’s car population of over 1 billion vehicles worldwide is expected to double by 2050, with a significant percentage of the materials for that increase expected to come from auto recycling.
The traditional big three vehicle manufacturers – the United States, Japan and Germany – will not be where most of this new production will occur. Instead, it will be in developing countries like China, which in the past did not have large populations of car owners. Today, car production in China is soaring, going from 15 million now to an estimated 25 million in just the next decade. To do this, China and other countries with fast growing car markets like India and Russia, are expected to rely heavily on recycled materials, such as a used chassis brain box.
Russia in particular has moved aggressively to encourage the use of recycled materials in their cars and trucks. A new tax punishes Russian car manufacturers who don’t have adequate recycling programs. Mexico is another country that is developing national industrial polices that encourage recycling of scrap vehicles. India, which has one of the fastest growing car industries in the world, is also firmly committed to having effective auto recycling programs.
However, the leader in this expanding global recycling movement remains China. The country’s enormous size and huge population make it an ideal market, but one that can’t be satisfied in an affordable way without relying heavily on materials from the scrap market. Using recycled materials is cheaper and puts less stress on the environment than manufacturing that relies entirely on fresh raw materials. These are important factors in China, which needs its cars to be reasonably priced to be affordable to its population, while also not contributing to China’s considerable environmental problems.
The auto recycling industry is presently growing at a rate of about 7 percent per year. The United States is currently the largest auto recycling country, with 14% of it’s parts coming from recycled sources, compared to only five percent in Australia and a mere one percent in Great Britain. Consequently, there remains room for continued steady growth in auto recycling even in the most advanced countries.
There are some barriers to the growth of auto recycling, such as incompatibility in auto designs across various markets and the logistical challenges of moving scrap material around the world. Yet, no one doubts that global auto recycling is the wave of the future.