How to Go Green with Silv: Recycling Your Auto "baby" by Silvia Milanova, September 24 2015, 0 Comments

I will be completely honest; I don’t know much about cars. I still get my Ferraris mixed up with my Porches—a mistake my male friends never cease to point out—and don’t even get me started on lesser known brands and models—I have no clue! I wish I knew more and I’ve always thought that knowing how to fix a car (as a woman, nonetheless) would be super cool. But that’s probably one dream I will never realize. It’s okay though—that’s what we have guys for J.

However, what I do know is that I drive a Toyota Corolla that is almost 13 years old. Although my “baby” is holding up just fine, I know that at some point, as with everything else, my trustworthy, long-lasting, super car will eventually come to its last days. So, I was recently thinking, what will I do then?! I know that junk yards take very old beat-up cars, or those that have been in accidents, but what will happen to my Toyota that looks almost brand new, but unfortunately doesn’t feel as good on the inside? Well, one of my friends recently informed me that you can have the car, or rather its parts, recycled. And even better, for CASH! I mean, that makes sense. Why would I give up my car for FREE, when I paid money buying it, maintaining it and fixing it when needed? Also, this service isn’t just good for your wallet, it’s also much better for the environment.

Dissembling a car allows for its parts to be reused (more economical than recycling) or recycled properly if they’ve reached their end life. Each year, approximately 25 million tons of materials are recycled from vehicles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). About 80 percent of a car can be recycled, including the obvious, steel and aluminum parts, but also more obscure parts, such as antifreeze and the seats. The other 20 percent is composed of materials that cannot be recycled, called automobile shredder residue (ASR). But unlike the other materials, most ASR ends up in landfills. One noted exception is Toyota’s development of ASR sorting and recycling technologies, which began in 1998. Nevertheless, it’s important to dispose of your vehicle properly and ensure that the parts that can be recycled don’t go to waste.

Here is a quick overview of the recycling process of a car:

  • All fluids, fuel, including the engine oil, transmission fluid, engine coolant and windshield washer fluid, are drained and kept or disposed of properly
  • All usable parts and components are dismantled. These include the battery, tires, steering columns, radio, engine, transmission, etc. Note: According to the EPA, customers who purchase used or revamped vehicle parts can save 50 percent or more, compared to buying new parts.
  • The remaining part(s), including the shell, are then crushed by a processor
  • A shredder grinds the remnants into fist-size pieces
  • Finally, these pieces are separated into recyclable and non-recyclable metals and ASR. The metals (usually steel and iron) are melted and repurposed, which saves air and water pollution compared to using virgin materials, and the final ASR is disposed in a landfill

Here is the general process of the whole car life cycle, courtesy of Toyota. 

Parts from a car can be repurposed and recycled into completely new products, such as landscape paving made from vehicle glass or asphalt made from tire rubber, or reused as the same or similar parts in new cars. Some newer cars are much more eco friendly than others—an example is BMW's plug-in electric i3—called the greenest car in the world. BMW Spokesman Jose Guerrero said in an interview with ABC news that, “Right now we're 95 percent recyclable, so the car itself is very sustainable, and very renewable.” Ford is another company that is trying its hand at sustainable innovation. Recently the manufacturer has been experimenting with and exploring options to make vehicle parts made from plant-based (instead of oil-based) materials. Examples include soy cushions, denim insulation and plastic bottle seat upholstery. Pretty cool!

If your car is in its last stages of its useful life (womp, womp), consider how you plan to dispose of it when it has completed its last trip. When looking for an eco friendly company that properly handles the recycling of cars, the best thing to do is a Google search. Since some companies are specific to a certain area, it may be best to find a service that is close to your home and that will come and pick up your car, give you the proper documentation and safely take your “baby” away. It’s sad I know, but it will be okay, I promise! Besides, when you’re ready, you get to shop for a new car—wahoo!