What Happens When Your Car Is Recycled
The process of recycling a motor vehicle is not as straightforward as many people think. Various vehicle parts are recycled in different ways and there are also hazardous materials that need to be removed.
At the start of the process, wheels, tires, battery and catalytic converter are removed. Then fluids such as engine coolant, oil, transmission fluid, air conditioning refrigerant, and petrol/diesel are drained.
Parts that may have some value, such as electronic modules, alternators, starter motors, infotainment systems, etc, may be removed if they are still serviceable and can be re-used. The process of removing these higher value parts from the lower value vehicle body has traditionally been done by hand, although a technique that is on the increase is the ‘mechanical removal’ of these parts via machine based vehicle recycling systems (VRS).
Other hazardous materials such as mercury and sodium azide (the propellant used in air bags) may also be removed.
After all of the parts and products inside are removed, the remaining vehicle shell is subject to further processing, which includes removal of the air conditioner evaporator and heater core, and wiring harnesses. The remaining shell is then crushed flat, or cubed, to facilitate economical transportation in bulk to an industrial shredder or hammer mill, where the vehicles are further reduced to fist-sized chunks of metal. Glass, plastic and rubber are removed from the mix, and the metal is finally sold to steel mills for recycling.
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