There was a time when old cars were simply left as landfill. Today, however, people are more aware than ever before of the damage to the environment caused by unrecycled materials—and their value as a resource.
Many parts can simply be reused as they are. Some mechanics are happy to take old engines and repair and remanufacture them to make new ones. The results can be just as good as if they were brand new, but without the environmental and financial cost.
The most obvious material to recycle is the metal. Cars are usually crushed and shredded, and the iron and steel extracted by magnets. This recycled ferrous metal can then be used as feed stock to make new, high-quality steel, which can then be used to make bicycles, drinks cans or even a new car.
Tyres have always been an environmental problem for a number of reasons, including the sheer number that are discarded, the fact that they are not biodegradable and the hazardous nature of the chemicals. When disposed of responsibly however, they can be used in cement manufacture, as an ingredient in asphalt and even as a building material. Children's swings made of tyres are a common sight, and they have been used as building materials and gardening containers and even cut up to make clothing and footwear.
Windscreens have been difficult to recycle in the past because they are made of two different materials; the glass is sandwiched between layers of plastic known as PVB. However, modern methods can separate the two and transform them into new materials. The glass can be used to make insulation and new glass bottles, and can even be used in concrete. The PVB, meanwhile, can be used to make a number of chemical products, such as carpet glue or paint.
Even the plastic from carpets and seat cushions can be shredded down to produce fibres that can be used in the sewage treatment process. The fibres can help solidify raw sewage, enabling it to be pressed into "cakes" that can be used for fuel instead of coal.
Drinks cans, fuel, asphalt, glue, sewage treatment—it is unlikely that you would think of any of these products when saying goodbye to your old car. But if you dispose of it responsibly, it will have a valuable afterlife—and you may unknowingly come into contact with it again! Contact an auto parts recycler to learn more.