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What Happens To Cars On the Scrap Heap?

So what happens to our cars once they’ve shuffled off?  At the end of a vehicle’s useful life one of two things happens.  The nicest option is that you’ll find an enthusiast who will take pity on the aged car and give it a complete rebuild and refurbish.  This happens to the lucky cars that have a bit of personality or desirability.  However, it’s not often that a regular run-of-the-mill car will get this lucky; so what the most likely outcome for a dead car is that it will be consigned to the scrap heap.

It is the cars and trucks that end up on the scrap heap that I want to focus on here.  There is a silver lining with vehicles that do get into the scrap yard process because habitually these cars can be almost totally recycled, and that’s a good thing.  Vehicle recycling involves totally dismantling a car and it’s a great way to protect our earth’s natural resources by ensuring that the vehicles are destroyed properly and re-used.  Cars, trucks and vans have a lot of reusable parts on them and so they remain valuable because their components can be used as spares for other motor vehicles or used to build totally new items.

The first step of car recycling involves manually removing the tyres and batteries, safely draining the vehicle of any fuel, oil, and any other liquids present inside the car’s components.  Catalytic converters and batteries are removed for recycling.  Airbags are safely triggered and taken apart, however the airbags aren’t fit for reuse on other vehicles.

Obviously, car parts are only stored for reuse if they are in good working condition.  If the particular model of vehicle is in good demand on the market, their engines can be re-manufactured to a brand new standard.  However, in most cases, unwanted gear boxes, engines, and other steel car parts are dismantled for separate shredding.  The ferrous metal material that is recovered after dismantling is sent to steel mills for use as ferrous scrap metal, which can also be used as feed stock to produce high quality steel components for new cars.  Also, anything from new cars to drinks cans can be made from recycled metals left over from the car recycling process.

The remaining car is now shredded, after which the remaining material becomes easier to sort through for obtaining other different recyclable materials within the shredded material.  The separation of the shredded material uses different methods; for example, magnets are used to draw out all the metal from the shredded material.  Shredding technology has advanced over time, and it is now possible to sort the shredded materials totally to ensure a minimal landfill product is left over at the end of the process.

Once the metal has been take out, the other components of the vehicles that are made up from different types of plastics and foam can be separated.  Hard plastics can now be taken out, which were originally from the car dashboard and other interior components.  Another material called shredder fabric can be sorted out, and this comes from shredded carpets and seat cushions.  The shredder sand material is what is left at the very end, and this consists of paint particles, glass, and other fine particles.

Left over shredded materials can be used to make new vehicle plastics and components.  But there are many uses for the left over materials.  Hard plastics, for example, can be used as reducing agents in iron production plants. Shredder fibres are sometimes used in sewage treatment plants.

Shredder sand is sometimes known as automotive shredder residue (ASR).  ASR consists of a wide variety of materials, including plastics, glass, rubber, wood, foam, tramp metal, wire, fibres, sand and dirt.  It can also contain some hazardous contaminants such as lead, cadmium and petroleum hydrocarbons, making it a hazardous waste. Recyclers and scientists have been searching for ways to recycle and reuse ASR, which is primarily petroleum based, and which nearly always tends to end up in landfills.

Because ASR is full of plastics, which are made of petroleum, it also has the potential for use as a fuel supplement in cement kilns.  It can also be used in products such as various coatings, paints, adhesives, plastics and flame-retardant additives.  Through pyrolysis, oil can be extracted from the plastics found in ASR, and though this process is not yet completely proven, researchers continue to explore the efficiency and profitability of the process. Refining the process of pyrolysis may soon make it a common solution for the recycling of ASR.

Recycling a spent car is definitely good for our environment, and there are good financial returns for those who choose to make money in doing so.

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