Recycling is not a new term. Since the 1970s, Americans have been more conscientious about what happens to items when we’re no longer using them. The phrase “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” became a mantra that many people rallied around.
And it’s no different for automotive recyclers. In fact, for more than 75 years, the Automotive Recyclers Association has provided support for those who recycle automobiles.
But what exactly do automotive recyclers do? This informative guide will explain the auto recycling business and its impact on our environment and economy.
The Auto Recycling Business
Whether it’s an old or new car, auto recyclers determine the best way to recycle parts within the vehicle. Every piece of a car has the potential for a new life, depending on its condition. So auto recycling companies take inventory of each part and determine what to recycle and what to dispose of safely.
It also does not matter the vehicle’s current condition; auto recyclers take wrecked and mint-conditioned cars for recycling purposes.
According to this article, the Automotive Recycling Business is the 16th largest industry in America. The report also states, “According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, every year about 95% of vehicles retired from U.S. roadways is recycled.”
There are two priorities that the auto recycling industry provides to the community: safely disposing of old vehicles and recycling viable parts.
Safely Disposes of Vehicles
Most people think that the auto recycling industry only works with end-of-life vehicles (or ELVs). You may picture the car crushers from movies and think that’s all there is to this business.
However, there is much more to recycling automobiles, including the disposal of many potentially harmful elements within the car. These hazardous items include fuel, battery, oil, glass, and fluids (coolants and such).
It’s important to properly dispose of these elements for the safety of the environment and community.
Auto recyclers also recover parts and metals that are working or viable for reuse and recycling. Recovered parts can include the steering wheel, seats, mirrors, windshields, tires, and the car’s metal itself. Recycled steel from ELVs is a significant element of the automotive recycling business.
After all, the resalable items and hazardous items are removed from the vehicle, then the body of the car is safely disposed of in a car crushing machine.
Supplies Market With Recycled Parts
The second priority of automotive recyclers is supplying the market with recycled replacement vehicle parts.
After automobile recyclers recover the vehicle’s parts and metals, they determine which pieces qualify for resale. These parts can be high-quality, low-cost original parts that benefit both buyers and sellers.
If you are getting a car repaired, you may benefit if the body shop uses recycled parts rather than OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts. Rather than getting a part directly from the manufacturer, you can save money with a lower-cost recycled part. It may also benefit your insurance rates when using recycled car parts.
Wholesalers also prefer recycled parts because of the cost. Wholesalers can potentially make more money with automotive recycling than original parts from car manufacturers.
The Automotive Recyclers Process
A car owner has several options for what to do with a car at the end of its life. Owners can either trade at a dealer or sell it off. An auto recycler, such as CarScrappers, will purchase your car and then follow a recycling process similar to the following steps.
The first step of an auto recycler is to inspect the vehicle and assess any damage to the car’s engine, interior parts, external panels, and chassis. This inspection is done thoroughly and by professionals that know whether to salvage the vehicle or recycle its parts for resale.
Each part of the vehicle is inspected, and most cars at a junkyard end up getting recycled. If a car is determined as unsalvagable, it moves to the next step of the recycling process. Salvageable cars typically get work done where needed and resold, but this is rare.
Remove Valuable Parts
During the inspection and inventory step, auto recyclers determine which pieces and parts of the car are viable for resale. And to be clear, every part of a vehicle is assessed for its resale ability. If a part doesn’t qualify for resale, it’s recycled or safely disposed of (such as harmful or hazardous materials).
Tires and rims are either resold or recycled. Batteries are either resold or recycled. The sparks plugs, belts, seats, and other reusable items are either resold or recycled.
These valuable parts are carefully removed from the car so that wholesalers and body shops can use them to repair other cars. In other words, these removed parts are usually replacement parts for other cars that experienced a wreck or fender bender but are still drivable. The recycled parts get a chance at a second life in another vehicle.
Safely Dispose of the Rest
Auto recyclers then focus on parts of the vehicle that don’t qualify for recycling (such as gas cans) or dangerous fluids in the car, such as gas, oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and antifreeze. These items are removed and are independently stored for safety or properly discarded.
Car owners should let auto recyclers dispose of these items as they are hazardous. Auto recyclers properly filter out the liquids, clearly label and store the waste, and ensure that harmful fluids do not mix.
Afterward, the rest of the vehicle, typically the car’s body, is disposed of - usually crushed or shredded - then pressed into a cube about the size of a microwave.
The Impact of Automotive Recycling Industry
As we mentioned, the automotive recycling industry is big business. Even the pandemic didn’t slow things down because people preferred cost-efficient car parts rather than OEMs.
Throughout its history, the auto recycling business has provided economic and environmental benefits. Whether it’s scrap metal, recycled car parts, or the disposing of harmful waste, the automotive recycling industry contributes positively to society.
Circular Economy in Automotive Industry
The automotive recycling industry helps the circular economy to reduce waste and emissions. Instead of cars ending in a landfill, each part is carefully inspected to determine if it can re-enter the market for reuse or recycled for another purpose.
The most common parts of a car that are recycled include tires, windshield glass, oil filters, engines, batteries, and metal. And recyclers are able to recycle most of the material of each part. For example, car tires are typically recycled into sandals, playground equipment, and more.
It’s also important to note that the auto recycling industry may play an integral role in cutting carbon emissions. According to this study, automotive recyclers in Massachusetts were able to cut their carbon footprint by recycling and reusing steel and aluminum car parts.
Overall Economic Growth
Like any big industry, the auto recycling business provides economic benefits too. Within the industry and various companies, there are lucrative jobs that provide economic growth and stability in a community.
Auto recycling companies work with both manufacturers and wholesalers and provide valuable services to society. Not only do they support manufacturing industries by providing steel, aluminum, and iron to recycle, they also reuse viable car parts and provide stock for wholesalers.
Car owners are also part of the economic system when they sell their cars to an auto recycling company.
Why Auto Recyclers are Important
The days of cars filling up landfills are long gone. The environmental harms that once troubled the car industry are less because of automotive recyclers.
Simply stated, the automotive recycling industry reduces pollution and emissions, saves energy, and conserves natural resources.
The ARA (Automotive Recyclers Association) estimates that the industry recycles or reuses millions of gallons of gas, oil, coolant, and other car fluids each year. They also claim that automobiles are among the most recycled consumer products in the country. Everything from the steering wheel that drives the car to the tires that move the car - nearly 100% of a car has the potential for recycling or reselling.
So what do automotive recyclers do? They take care of vehicles when they can’t drive another mile. Whether the engine is damaged or the car is wrecked, each piece and part is inspected and determined for recycling or reuse. And they safely dispose of any hazardous waste.
That old mantra, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” is part of the auto recyclers process each and every time a vehicle is evaluated.