Over the past decade we’ve all had to get much better at recycling following the Government’s commitment to reducing the amount of waste that is sent to landfill each and every year. We’re used to separating our cardboard, paper, bottles, plastics, and food waste but what happens to your car when you scrap it? Does it just get crushed up or is it actually recycled? Well to answer these questions we’re going to take a look at the scrap process and what actually happens when you scrap your car.
The first step in the recycling process is to remove all the hazardous materials from the car. These include anything that can cause environmental harm such as: oil, fuel, battery acid, coolants, anti-freeze, windscreen wash, brake fluid, and refrigerants. Once this process has been carried out a Certificate of Destruction will be issued.
With the hazardous materials removed it is now safe for the car to be broken up. This is done using a giant shredder which tears the vehicle up into small pieces that are then able to be sorted and recycled.
Once the car has been shredded into small pieces the resulting scrap material can then start to be sorted. The first stage of this is to use magnets to separate the steel from the rest of the materials. Steel makes up around 70% of the total weight of a car and most steel that is recycled this way is sent to a metal foundry before being exported around the world.
Now that the steel has been removed a powerful vacuum is passed over the material to remove all of the lighter materials including foams, rubbers, and light plastics. These elements are then sent to a special plant which uses a process called gasification to generate electricity.
With the other materials removed the remaining elements include non-ferrous metals and heavy plastics. These go through a process known as heavy media that uses different densities of water to split the materials and removed the non-ferrous metals.
With modern cars using many different types of plastics in their construction it’s important for these to be properly recycled. There are many plants that can now break these down and turn them into pure plastic pellets that can be used for moulding new plastics.
With strict recycling legislation in place 95% of a car needs to be recycled when it is scrapped and what was once a basic process has turned into a highly technical and innovative industry.