It’s good to think green. These days, we’re all conscious about what we consume and how much we waste. But when it comes to getting rid of a junk car, you might be wondering how to do the right thing by the planet. Is it possible to recycle an old car? And how much of it is even recyclable?
The good news is yes, it is possible to recycle an old car. The even better news is that almost every bit of a car can be recycled or reused—in most cases, around 90% of a vehicle’s parts or components can live on in some way. In the US and Canada, more than 4 million vehicles are recycled each year. It helps that car manufacturers are working hard to design more sustainable vehicles with an emphasis on materials that are easy to recycle. (And Peddle is here to make it even easier to pass your car onto the salvage yard).
But how do you recycle a car? It depends on the state of your car. A salvage yard or recycling depot will take a look at the vehicle and decide which parts can still be used picked off for resale and reuse. The remaining parts will be stripped down for scrap or melted down. Let’s take a look at some of the common components and what happens next.
Tires are built to last and rubber is far from biodegradable. Dumped tires can have a negative impact on the environment for a long, long time—and burning them results in air pollution. The best way to recycle tires is to find new uses. Tire rubber can be used as rubber chipping, sports tracks or rubberised asphalt for roads. If you want to get creative, then tires can be used to make all sorts of cool things, from shoe soles to homeware. If you’ve got a backyard, they make great swings or planters.
Don’t empty out your old engine oil. Incorrectly disposed of engine oil can be toxic to the environment. And it can be reused. Engine oil can be extracted from an old car, cleaned, and reprocessed to be used elsewhere.
Car batteries are one of the most recyclable items in a car at 99%. It’s not a DIY job though—the battery will be removed and taken to a processing plant where it will be crushed down and the different materials in it separated out. The lead, silver, and plastic will all be melted down and reused to make the cases and components of new batteries.
For a long time it was difficult to recycle car windows and windshields. This is because the windscreens are laminated between layers of plastic coating. In recent years this has started to change, thanks to new technology that pulverizes the glass and separates out the plastic. The glass is kept in a fine powder, which can be turned back into glass, or mixed into other materials such as fiberglass. (Cool, right?)
The catalytic converter is one of the most valuable pieces of scrap from a car, because it contains the precious metals rhodium, palladium, and platinum. Once the catalytic converter is removed, the precious metals can be separated and resold. It could even end up having a new life as a piece of jewelry.
Just like catalytic converters, the starters and alternators in an engine are expensive components to replace. In some cases, these can be removed and reconditioned. If not, it can be broken down and the metal parts repurposed.
Around two thirds of a car is made out of steel, which can be recycled (yay!). Other parts are made out of aluminum which can also be recycled. The metal found in broken engine parts and components can be separated out and, like the rest of it, melted down for reuse.
It’s a process we know pretty well here at Peddle (our roots are in the scrap industry) and we work with scrap yards all over the country to recycle and repurpose junk cars. Whatever happens to your old car, we’ll make sure it lives on in new ways.