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Environmental Impact of Auto Recycling

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Facts About Auto Recycling

Zack Lasky

Did you know that according to statistics on auto recycling the car you drive is actually the most recycled item in the United States?  Every year over 12 million cars reach the end of their roads and enter the car recycling stream.  With Earth Day coming up it makes us proud to be in one of the most environmentally conscious industries.  

When you think recycling in the U.S. the first thing that comes to your mind is probably plastic water bottles.  Well, the sad thing is Americans are really ineffective when it comes to recycling water bottles as we only recycle 23% of plastic water bottles consumed.  Fortunately when it comes to auto recycling more than 80% of a car can be recycled.  

What’s in your car that can be reused?  Their not just big hunks of steel anymore.  Today’s cars are comprised of various types of metals like steel, aluminum, palladium, platinum, zinc, cobalt and tin as well as plastic, carbon fiber, rubber and glass.  Steel makes up the majority of the body weight of a vehicle and every year more than 18 million tons of steel are melted down and reused.  Steel is an infinitely recyclable resource!  It never loses strength no matter how many times its recycled and scrap steel is far more environmentally friendly to use than producing new steel.  Impressively, the U.S. and Canada recycles enough steel to produce about 13 million new vehicles every year.

Other environmentally beneficial auto recycling facts include:

  • Enough materials are recycled from cars to save 85 million barrels of oil from being used to make new parts.
  • Not only are metals and other materials reused but enough fluids and oils are safely removed from recycled cars to equal 8 Exxon Valdez oil spills.
  • About 90% of a vehicle’s aluminum is recycled, which is less than 10% of its weight but can be up to 50% of its recycled value.
  • Approximately 99% of car batteries are recycled.

Future Impact of New Technology on Auto Recycling

As electric, hybrid and just more technologically advanced vehicles make their impact on the automobile industry in general, recycling companies are taking notice.  Electric and hybrid vehicles have given auto recyclers a challenge due to the volatile lithium batteries. Recyclers are also facing the decision of whether to invest in the expensive technology needed to handle the dismantling of these units.  Some recyclers are waiting for the supply of EV and hybrid vehicles to reach a point where its economically viable to them.

“…moving forward it will be important for recyclers to build partnerships with automakers to understand how best to recycle batteries and deal with the potentially dangerous aspect of the technology – both chemical and electrical” –   Electric and Hybrid Vehicles Will Impact Auto Recyclers, American Recycler   

Keep in mind too the other technologies to watch for including autonomous vehicles, driver override systems, active window displays and other seemingly futuristic changes to the automobile as we know it.

Environmental Benefit of Advanced Remarketing Services

The environmental benefits of the auto recycling industry are pretty clear.  Recently, students from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) completed a study to determine the positive environmental impact of members of the Automotive Recyclers of Massachusetts (ARM).   

“What the automotive recyclers are doing is saving materials, saving energy and impacting the environment in a positive way, in a great sense,” said Professor Brajendra Mishra, PhD, director of the Metal Processing Institute at WPI

Using the findings of this report and applying it to the work that we do at Advanced Remarketing Services makes a significant impact around the United States.  In 2017, the volume of cars remarketed into the recycling stream by ARS represents about 385,000 tons of carbon dioxide that was saved by eliminating the need to produce new materials.  To put that into perspective the amount of CO2 that we helped save would be enough to power more than 47,500 homes’ electricity use for one year!

Needless to say we couldn’t be prouder of the environmental success contributed by Advanced Remarketing Services and our employees.  As Earth’s resources continue to be exhausted, the automotive recycling industry needs to push the circular economy of auto manufacturing and recycling.    

How to Recycle a Car

Any car can be recycled even if it’s not in running condition and just a hunk of junk sitting in your driveway.  There’s no curbside pickup program for auto recycling (that would be easy) but all you have to do is find a recycling facility in your area.  You can sell your car directly to one of these recyclers for cash, just remember to remove your personal belongings, cancel your insurance and handle the title transfer properly.  We actually have a great resource for title transfers in each state right on our site and even have produced videos from our helpful staff!

A source like You Call We Haul can help with the effort of finding a buyer for your car.  If you have an old junk car that you think is destined for the recycling stream check out how to sell your junk car.  If there’s no recycling facility nearby or you are not getting the value you would like you may also donate your car to a non-profit organization.  Your car enters the recycling stream the same way it would if you sold your car to a local recycler but instead the proceeds raised from the sale go to the charity of your choice and you receive a tax benefit.     

Conclusion

While the volume of new cars sold in 2017 was down for the first time in seven years there were still close to six million more cars sold than were recycled from U.S. roadways.  When considering this and also the fact that the U.S. accounts for more than 25% of all vehicles in operation (VIO) in the world it is important to focus on all the good we do everyday this Earth Day and every other day!  

Zack LaskyEnvironmental Impact of Auto Recycling

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