Jackie Thompson

Every year, up to 12 million vehicles are retired from use in the U.S. Rather than being left to rot in landfill, 95% of them are repurposed through junkyards or auto-recycling facilities. Of course, with good maintenance, even the lifetime of hard-working trucks can be extended, and iconic cars can be restored to their former glory. However, once a vehicle has reached the end of the road, the comprehensive recovery of parts and new recycling processes means that their components are put to good use without contaminating the environment.

Cleaning And Recycling Oil

The use of oil in any vehicle can improve fuel efficiency, as well as prolong the life of individual components, especially if it contains anti-wear additives to prevent corrosion. Although motor oils get dirty through use, they don’t wear out, so once a vehicle comes to the end of its useful existence, fluids such as oil and diesel are removed. This not only stops them from polluting the environment, but also allows them to be filtered, cleaned and reused. During the cleaning process, impurities are removed through distillation and other refining techniques. Research on recycling oil through solvent extraction has found that it is a more effective and cleaner process, conserving natural resources and removing a higher percentage of sludge from the oil.

Breaking Down Batteries

Recycling old car batteries reduces toxic waste, as well as the need to source further raw materials for use in new components. Sealed lead-acid batteries are broken up and ground down, isolating the plastic, lead and sulphuric acid. Both the plastic and lead are melted to be stored as pellets and ingots ready for reuse, while the sulphuric acid is neutralized and turned into water. Now that the first electric car batteries are coming to the end of their life, recycling processes are being put in place to maximize the recovery of valuable metals such as lithium and cobalt. As with lead acid batteries, the separate components can then be largely reused in new batteries in a closed-loop process.

Salvaging Old Tires

Once worn tires can no longer be retreaded, they can be burnt to provide fuel, used in ground applications such as asphalt rubber and sporting tracks, or provide filling and insulation in civil engineering projects. However, these are not always the most efficient ways to recycle what is essentially a non-renewable source, and many tires are still left to deteriorate or become vulnerable to arson attacks in landfill. A new recycling technique has now been developed that successfully breaks the chemical bonds holding tires together rather than simply shredding the rubber for re-use. This allows the isolated organic chains that are left to be easily reused in new products.

Although almost all the parts of a vehicle can be recovered, new recycling processes ensure that a variety of components are broken down in a cleaner and more efficient way. These methods continue to minimize the environmental contamination caused by discarded parts, and reduce the amount of material that needs to be sourced for new ones.

Photo by Jessica Palomo on Unsplash