How to recycle a car
The current high cost of scrap metal means it makes economic sense to recycle as much of an old car as possible.
Not terribly long ago, the owner of an old banger would have to pay a scrap merchant to take a car away because the cost of crushing and disposing of the vehicle didn’t make financial sense. Now, with markets in the Far East in particular hungry for metal and not fussy from where it comes, merchants are handing over ready cash to relieve drivers of their cars.
About two thirds of a car is metal, and at current prices (July 2013) scrap merchants in the United Kingdom are paying up to 25p per kilo for motors, and £60 per ton of cast iron or steel. Bearing in mind that the average car can weigh up to three-quarters of a ton, and luxury cars even more, it is already making good money sense to recycle old vehicles rather than leave them to moulder in scrap yards.
That’s not to say that the sight of scrap yards full of broken down cars is disappearing. There is still plenty of profit in stripping a car of useful parts before breaking it down for scrap metal, as the budget part-used component market still plays a minor yet vital part in keeping many cars on the road.
Even though it is considered a dangerous practice, part used tyres comprise a significant percentage of tyres sold to UK motorists. Drivers will mitigate the risk of buying second-hand against the money saved against buying new, and for that reason the essentially unregulated old tyre market will always remain attractive to buyers.
Plastics, wires and other parts may also be removed if they are deemed commercially viable, or have value when recycled further.
Once a car is stripped of its useful components, it’s ready to be crushed. According to figures, it takes three quarters less energy to recycle steel than to make new. It’s also cheaper to produce, as there aren’t all the lead-in costs of extracting iron ore, transporting and manufacturing.
Some cars are crushed down to small blocks, a practice that has gone on down there years, and remembered less than fondly by anybody who has seen the film Goldfinger. However, newer practice is to feed the vehicle into a shredder, where it is literally hammered down into small pieces that are easier to handle and to transport.
From this stage, it’s on to the new customer, with many cargo containers leaving these shores for the metal-hungry Far East containing nothing but smashed cars.
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