Summer is a time of cookouts and vacations and soaking up the sun, but it is also the prime time for one of America’s favorite past times; the road trip. Over the course of the year, almost 70% of Americans will grab their steering wheel for a road trip.
With such a love for driving, cars will eventually wear out and need to replacing with a shiny new set of wheels. Instead of going to the landfill, cars are recycled as much as possible, with over two million cars recycled in the U.S. each year.
What is the process of recycling a car once its road trip days are over?
Step 1 Drain & Dismantle
Once the car has arrived at the auto recycler it is drained of all fluids such as oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, and brake fluid. Some of these fluids can be recycled and reused, otherwise they are disposed of.
Technicians remove the engine block and transmission from the vehicle body. They remove and clean for sale any other parts that might be usable for fixing cars still on the road.
Recyclers remove the batteries, which can be completely recycled. The lead is melted into ingots and reused, the battery acid is used in glass and fabric manufacturing processes, and the plastic case is shredded and sent to plastic recyclers.
Almost 250 million tires are recycled in the U.S. each year, and these come off the scrap car next, which get reused as shredded and ground rubber.
Finally, the glass windows are removed, which go on to for recycling into new glass products.
Step 2 Shred and Sort
Now that the car has been disassembled down to the frame and body it is then crushed and shredded down into small pieces. Unusable engines and transmissions are also shredded. Shredded material is then sorted into ferrous and non-ferrous metals using magnets. Any scrap plastic or rubber that was shredded is removed.
This shredded scrap metal is sent to steel and aluminum mills to be melted and used as feedstock for later metal manufacturing. The metal might be used by car manufacturers to make new car frames, or it could be used for soda cans and other metal products. Car recycling produces over 14 million tons of steel each year.