Recycling Week: 10 Car Components That Can Be Recycled

Posted on 24th Sep 2019 by CarTakeBack Posted in: In The Know

Crashed car and auto parts in a dismantling yard.

Sustainability is at the heart of public conversation in a way we have never seen before. Environmentalists such as Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough have helped push climate concerns to the forefront of daily news.

The message is clear – everyone must do everything they can to make society sustainable and reduce our impact on the planet.

CarTakeBack is ahead of the curve for responsible recycling

CarTakeBack is proud to be a responsible vehicle recycling network and our passion for sustainability lies at the very core of our business. But what does this mean exactly?

It means we achieved a recycling rate of 95% for every vehicle that is scrapped through us. This is a target that we were able to reach 2 years before it became a legal requirement.

This also means our network has recycled and diverted over 4.7 million tonnes of vehicle parts and materials away from the landfill. We have also issued over 5 million Certificates of Destruction.

Did you know?

  • 8 million cars are scrapped every year across the UK
  • The average age of a car that is scrapped is 15 years
  • From 2015, the End of Life Vehicle Directive determined that the industry must ensure that 95% of each vehicle by weight is re-used, recovered or recycled. This was 85% previously.
  • 9 million new vehicles were registered for the first time in great Britain in 2018.

So how is a car recycled?

If we count down to the smallest screws, a single car has about 30,000 different parts. Recycling a car is therefore a little more complicated than an empty beans tin. It takes time, knowledge and expertise to recycle, re-use or recover 95% of a car’s weight.

Engine parts

Reusable car parts

Dismantled cars can yield a number of reusable parts. Each of these may still be of value to someone else looking to buy spares for their own vehicle.

  • Headlights, blinkers & taillights
  • Seats & upholstery
  • Exhaust system parts
  • Mirrors
  • Alloy wheels & hubcaps
  • Engines and engine parts
  • Transmission systems
  • Undamaged windows and windshields

It sometimes only takes one critical issue to render a car un-usable. The lights, seats, mirrors and other components of a written-off car could be in perfect working order.

Which car components can be recycled?

A vehicle recycler will follow an exhaustive process to ensure all usable components are recovered or recycled suitably. This process also includes the safe disposal of materials and fluids which are not good for re-sale or recycling.

Here are 10 well-known car parts which can be recycled. 

1.     Engine oil

You might think old and used engine oil is beyond saving, but you would be wrong. Your car’s oil doesn’t actually “go off” or become too old to work properly with an engine; it simply gets dirty.

A person changes car's engine oil

Used engine oil can be taken to a reputable collection centre, where it is cleaned for reuse. Disposing of used engine oil incorrectly can have an awful impact on soil, groundwater, rivers and natural ecosystems.

2.     Windows and windscreen

Windscreens and windows can be difficult to recycle because they are often fixed between layers of plastic.

Reflections of clouds and sky. A car parked at the side of the road, so it's like having clouds in the car.

Vehicle design has improved in recent years, meaning glass can be recovered and recycled to produce glass bottles, fibreglass insulation and other important everyday products.

3.     Scrap metal

Cars feature a wide range of metal components, which constitute a huge portion of a car’s total mass. Parts such as aluminium rims, axels, handles and other scrap metal from end-of-life vehicles can be sold to scrap metal companies, who will melt it down so it can be re-used.

4.     Car batteries

One of the most widely recycled car components are also one of the most problematic if not appropriately recovered or re-used. Car batteries contain toxic chemicals which can be extremely damaging to the environment if not disposed of correctly.

A man recycling a car battery

It is illegal to dispose of a car battery as part of your household waste. Car batteries, also known as “wet cell batteries ”, can be recycled through a process including dissecting the battery into its various parts, such as lead, silver, plastic and acid. The valuable parts can be extracted for re-use, while the lead is melted down and acid neutralised.

5.     Car tyres

Burning used tyres generates high levels of air pollution in the local area; it also releases an oily, toxic runoff. Reputable dealers will seek to responsibly recycle and reuse old tyres, so that they can be turned into a variety of things, including rubberised asphalt for paving and roads, as well as rubber crumb chippings for artificial surfaces.

6.     Plastic components

Modern cars contain a lot of plastic, including fuel tanks, lighting fixtures, bumpers, handles and levers, as well as your interior trim and dashboard. Approximately 8 million metric tonnes of waste plastic enters the Earth’s oceans every year, making plastic waste one of the most serious challenges environmental activists are trying to tackle.

Source: The Conversation. Graphic by Lindsay Robinson/University of Georgia

The plastic in your old car can be recycled through a mechanical chop and wash process, where the plastic is washed and then ground down and melted for re-use, and chemical recycling, where it is broken down into basic components for re-use.

7.     Oil filters

Used oil filters are not a pretty sight. They are filled with used engine oil and sludge. The Environment Agency considers used oil filters as contaminated waste, and there are strict regulations relating to their disposal and re-use.

Both the dirty oil and steel components can be recycled. The oil can be refined into lubricants or fuel, while the metal components can be reprocessed to make cans, appliances, construction materials and even new cars.

8.     Car engines

If your car engine reaches the end of its life or is damaged beyond a point that you are willing to pay for, this still isn’t the end of its journey. Depending on the condition an old engine is in, there are various ways it can be recycled.

Car parts displayed on a workbench

If your engine is complete scrap, a recycling specialist will extract the raw materials and metal to be melted down and used to make new products. Aluminium is especially useful when recycling because does not deteriorate significantly when melted.

Other engines can be reconditioned or remanufactured. If there is still life in your old engine, it can be sold on as a whole unit, where it can be dismantled for replacement parts, or reconditioned for use in another vehicle.

9.     Car mats and carpets

Carpets, rugs and mats are highly recyclable, and the ones in your car are no different. There are a range of ways your used car mats can be recycled.

For starters, if they are still in good condition, they can simply be sold or passed on to another motorist, whether direct or through a website like Gumtree.

If your car mats are ready to be thrown away, there are other uses for it. Old carpets can be used by gardeners to insulate compost heaps or keep weeds at bay.

Man is cleaning car mats outdoors

Around 2.2. billion kilograms of used carpet hit the landfill each year. This is an astonishing figure, which is made worse by carpet being non-biodegradable. Discarded car mats contribute to this, so recycling and reuse is very important.

10.     Starters & Alternators

Starter motors and alternators can be very expensive for drivers to replace. The good news is they are widely recyclable and can be recovered and reconditioned so they are as good as new.

If a starter motor or alternator is completely brown, like so many other metallic components in a vehicle, it can be dismantled, melted down and recycled into a range of new and useful products.

These 10 components are just the tip of the vehicle recycling iceberg.

Why car recycling is so important

Responsible vehicle recycling is a critically important industry that benefits both the planet and the people who inhabit it – even if they don’t drive!

Steel recycling saves energy and natural resources; it is also cheaper and uses significantly less energy than making it fresh. Recycling cars also helps prevent huge quantities of scrap metal hitting a landfill and recirculate it in a useful way.

Car components

For drivers, responsible car recyclers are essential because they are the source of innumerable discounted spare parts. Reconditioned replacement parts can save you a lot of money in long-term vehicle maintenance. It might even save your own car from the scrap heap someday.

What’s more, car recyclers will pay you for your old car, making selling your old car quick, easy and rewarding. That way you can get rid of your unwanted car knowing it’s going to be disposed of in a sustainable way.

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