What does Vehicle Recycling mean?
The reuse of parts and the recovery of resources from motor vehicles is not a new industry. Metal parts, in particular, have always had value, in terms of reuse and recycling.
Vehicle recycling is the disassembling of motor vehicles into its parts. At the end of a cars useful life, vehicles still have value as a source of spare parts and this has created a vehicle dismantling industry.
Goals for recycling
- Enabling the optimum recycling of automotive materials to reduce the need for new materials
- Supporting the recovery of automotive materials in a cost-competitive manner
- Removing any perceived recycling barriers to the use of advanced light weigh materials
Demand for steel
Over 12 million vehicles reach the end of their useful life (ELV) each year. This generates approximately 15 million tons of waste. These junk cars still have value by giving back the metal that makes up 75% of the car.
First, it passes to a vehicle dismantler. This industry has various names for the dismantler to include; junk yards, wrecking yard, auto dismantling yard, car spare parts supplier, and auto or vehicle recycling. Vehicle recycling has always occurred to some degree, in recent years manufacturers have become involved building vehicles with recycling in mind. The dismantler will remove parts that can be sold for reuse, remove the environmental pollutants like operating fluids and batteries, and then sell the shell to a shredding operation.
Next, the vehicles are shredded and the metal content is recovered. Shredders are large volume mills that break the hulk in to fist-sized chunks. Ferrous metals are then recovered by magnetic separation and non-ferrous metals are separated mechanically and by hand.
The shredder residue that is not recovered as metal contains other recyclable materials. These include as much as 30% polymers (plastics), and up to 10% other metals. As much as 85% of an automobile can be recycled. Being the most recycled consumer product, end-of-life (ELV) vehicles deliver the steel industry more than 10 million tons of steel annually.
Last, the bits and pieces that are left are buried in a landfill.
Fleet operators and insurance companies also add to this with 5 million “total loss” automobiles each year. This is due to accidents and theft. The increase in “total loss” statements by insurance companies reflects modern motor vehicles equipped with parts that are costly to replace (airbags, xenon headlights and electronics) and escalate repair costs above the wholesale value of the vehicle.
Today, more than 95 per cent of all vehicles go through a recycling program. More than 75 per cent, by weight, of each end-of-life vehicle is recycled.
With American automakers taking a proactive stance in government and private industry efforts on vehicle recycling, the cash for junk cars trade has become more rewarding than ever.
This simple process is beneficial for the environment and more beneficial to the car owners. In the cash-for-cars trade, the amount the junk car will pay varies greatly based on the year of the car but on average range from $200.00 to $400.00
The health of our economy continues to improve, the demand for new cars is giving way to increased car sales and as a result more cars are heading to the shredders. That’s great news for recyclers. In recent years, junk car recycles have seen the volume of cars scraped decline as people held onto their vehicles longer.
The relatively high age of cars in use on the road is convincing the auto industry that more people will be buying a new or newer car in the new future. The data from the National Automobile Dealers Association suggests that motor vehicles on the road are older on average then they had been in the past, at 10.6 years old.
The increasing numbers of vehicles on our streets and highways will at some point face ELV processing. It is important that standards demanding environmental and economic responsibility are adopted so the automotive recycling industry can guarantee that recycled car parts are safe and retain their value. When this happens the automotive recycling industry can take its rightful place among the most successful businesses around the world.
There is an endless supply of used tires, approximately 300 million tires are discarded every year, and another billion tires are stockpiled in the US. Various government agencies have programs in place to help companies develop end markets; opportunities to use scrap tires as a raw material are growing and will continue to grow in the future.
Tires can be recycled into many different products including: hot melt asphalt, recycled asphalt pavement, and as an aggregate in Portland cement. Tires can also be recycled into other tires and also retreads. Tires have also been shredded and used in garden beds as mulch to hold in water and prevent weeds from growing. They can also be used in buildings known as “green” construction, both private and public buildings that been made from old tires.
Pyrolysis (decomposition or transformation of a compound caused by heat) is another process that can be used to transform old tires into fuel, and oil. These products can be used in industry to reduce manufacturing cost.
Developments in devulcanization (A process in which crumb rubber is subjected to treatment by heat, pressure or the addition of softening agents to regenerate the rubber compound to its original plastic state) has enabled the processing of large volumes of tire crumb and converting it into compounds without degrading the polymer and without generating any pollution. These new processes in devulcanization technologies create high productivity while leaving a low energy use footprint. The polymer compounds created from tire scrap can be blended with virgin rubber maintaining performance while reducing the material cost. Using these modern processes makes possible the burning of tires unnecessary.
Motor Oil Recycling
Recycled motor oil can be burned as fuel in plant boilers, space heaters, and industrial heating such as blast furnaces and cement kilns. Recycled motor oil can be distilled into diesel fuel or marine fuel in a process similar to oil re-refining. The lubrication properties of motor oil continue in used oil and it can be recycled indefinitely. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Used motor oil re-refining
Used oil re-refining; is the process of restoring used oil to new oil by removing impurities like water, chemicals, metal and dirt. Used Industrial and automotive oil is recycled at re-refineries.
- First it is dehydrated in order to remove water. Dehydrating also removes the residual fuel which can be used to power the refinery; in addition it captures glycol for reuse in recycled antifreeze.
- Second, vacuum distillation removes the lube cut (the portion suitable for reuse as motor oil) leaving a heavy oil that contains the used oil’s additives and other by-products. The lube cut next undergoes hydro treating, or catalytic hydrogenation to remove residual polymers and other chemical compounds for greater stability.
- Third, oil fractionating separates the oil into three different oil grades
- Light viscosity lubricants suitable for general lubricant applications
- Low viscosity lubricants for automotive and industrial applications
- High viscosity lubricants for heavy-duty applications. The oil that is produced in this step is referred to as base oil.
- The final step is blending additives into these three grades of oil products to produce a product with the right detergent and anti-friction qualities.
Each product is then tested for quality and purity before being released for sale to the public.
Electronics are part of our everyday waste stream. Many government officials say they feel the improper disposal of such devices creates a risk to both jobs at home and to the environment.
A bill known as the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (RERA) was introduced in Congress in June 2011. This restricts exporting untested and nonworking electronics from the U.S. to developing countries. The bill would still allow free trade of working used electronics exported for reuse. The measure is a gold mine for domestic recyclers and those who deal with electronics reuse.
DSM Environmental Services Inc. is a consulting firm focused on recycling, and materials management they said “the bill will be a boon to domestic recyclers”. The EPA stated the United States generated more than 3.1 million tons of e-waste in 2009 (the most recent figures available).
Vast amounts of materials are recovered from e-waste; including rare earth metals, gold, copper and aluminum. Exported, these valuable recyclables are sold for pennies on the dollar to brokers and are then processed overseas for sale to global markets at full value. This creates a loss of export revenue and jobs.
A study showed that if Congress takes action to make sure e-waste goes to U.S. recyclers instead of being exported to developing nations, that it would create tens of thousands of jobs for Americans and help grow our economy.
Benefits of recycling
Simply stated recycling saves energy and natural resources.
- Recycled steel saves enough energy to power about 18 million homes a year. Recycling metal also uses about 74 percent less energy than creating metal products in traditional methods.
- Recyclers of end-of-life vehicles save more than 85 million barrels of oil annually.
- Recycling a car keeps 11 million tons of steel and 800,000 non-ferrous metals out of landfills and back in consumer use.
- Before 2003 vehicles were found to contain mercury auto switches used in convenience lighting and antilock braking systems. Recyclers remove and recycle this mercury before the vehicles are shredded to prevent it from escaping into our environment.
What the future holds for recycling
While manufacturers will continue to remove weight from vehicles and explore other means to improve fuel economy, recyclers are unlikely to see a drastic change in vehicle composition in the near future.
Recyclers who earn a living from the tons of material processed, the near certainty that tomorrow’s cars and light trucks will be lighter than those currently on the road gives pause to the future of recycling. The good news is that automobiles will be designed with recycling in mind. Both government directives and auto industry economics indicate that recycled and recyclable materials will be part of the car of the future. Recyclers should not be overly concerned about dealing with new materials soon, as change comes slowly to the auto industry.