scrap cars piled up in junk yard.
Car Disposal

Car Disposal and Recycling

Most cars have an average lifespan of five to ten years, so it’s hardly surprising that we produce large volumes of car waste each year. A recent study found that one million cars are scrapped in the UK each year – which doesn’t include all the fuel waste.

The problem with car disposal is that you can’t simply leave your old motor for the council to collect. Learn all about vehicle disposal and recycling to get rid of your old set of wheels in the best possible way.

Car recycling and
disposal FAQs

  • What type of waste are cars?

    Cars are a form of automotive waste – which is made up of many different waste types. When old cars are disposed, they’re usually broken down into separate parts that fall under different waste categories:

    • Metal waste – the body or frame of a car is often made of carbon steel, which is a type of metal that’s easily recyclable.
    • Battery waste – dead or old car batteries must be removed and disposed of separately as battery waste.
    • Waste oil – car fuel classes as a form of waste oil (whether it has a petrol or diesel engine), which must be handled carefully due to the hazardous nature of the product.
  • Who invented cars?

    Karl Benz invented the first car in 1886. While he had already been working on the Benz Patent-Motorwagen for some years before this, the patent was awarded in 1886 when the car was introduced to the market. However, as these vehicles were costly, they weren’t as easily accessible as they are now.

    The first car considered accessible by modern standards was Ford’s Model T in 1908. Today there are well over 400 different makes of cars and vehicles available to the everyday consumer, with innovations meaning the list is seemingly ever-growing.

  • What materials are cars made from?

    Cars are made from many different parts and materials. The good news is that according to a recent report, around 86% of the materials used to make cars can be recycled once the vehicle is no longer roadworthy. Examples of some materials cars are made from include:

    • Metal is used to build the main body of a car – typically strong, durable metal such as steel.
    • Rubber – both natural and synthetic (made from plastic polymers) – is used to create car tyres.
    • Glass that’s tempered or laminated is used for the windows and windshields are to reduce the chances of them breaking accidentally.
  • How are cars made?

    The process of making cars is complex and varies depending on the make or model. As a general overview, the steps to make a car are as follows:

    • The car’s base is created on an assembly line and constructed from the bottom of the vehicle moving upwards. For example, once the base of the car has been laid out, elements such as gearboxes and brakes are added.
    • Engine and batteries are created and tested before installation.
    • The vehicle’s shell is attached to the base. Following this, external features such as doors and boots are added to the car.
    • The car’s then painted using water-based acrylic enamel paint. This is specifically designed to be long-lasting and resistant to all weather types.
    • Once the car’s exterior is completed, focus shifts to the interior. Anything that requires wiring is dealt with first, such as interior lights and radios, then seats are installed.
    • Finally, windows and windshields are carefully installed.
  • How do you dispose of a scrap car?

    Once a vehicle reaches the end of its life and is no longer roadworthy, you have a few options available for disposal of an old car. You can arrange collection by a scrap dealer, who will salvage any reusable parts and ensure they don’t end up at a landfill site.

    You may be able to drop off your old car at the car dealership where you first purchased the vehicle. If you own a garage or car dealership, you need to ensure your waste is collected by a licensed waste carrier with experience in disposing of automotive vehicles for proper disposal.

  • How recyclable is a car?

    86% of materials used to make a car are recyclable. Cars are some of the most recyclable consumer products, as most of their parts can be reused, repurposed, or recycled. Unless there’s significant damage, the metal frame and any plastic bumpers and body parts can often be reused or recycled. Even waste fuel can be recycled rather than thrown away.

  • What happens to cars after they’re disposed?

    When old cars are taken to the appropriate recycling facility, they’re taken apart and each section of the vehicle is disposed of in a slightly different way. For example, car batteries must be handled with particular care – they’re dissected into different parts, such as lead, silver, and acid. The acid is carefully neutralised, and other products are prepared for reuse.

    Additionally, scrap metal – such as the body of the car alongside rims and handles – are melted at high temperatures and can then be reintroduced to the manufacturing process.

  • What are some eco-friendly alternatives to cars?

    According to a recent report, approximately 27% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from cars. As a result, many schemes encourage drivers to consider more eco-friendly modes of travel, such as utilising public transport or cycling. Additionally, electric vehicles are far more sustainable, and from 2030 the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned.

  • Can you do anything with cars instead of scrapping them?

    If your car’s in good shape, consider reselling your vehicle or donating it to a local charity first. Alternatively, you might be able to return the car to the manufacturer or the garage where you’re purchasing your new vehicle as part exchange. These are both greener options than recycling your car.

    It’s also worth considering whether your car can be repaired and given a new lease for life. In some cases, this can be more cost effective and environmentally friendly – as it saves on energy, money, and time spent creating a brand new car.

  • What are the costs associated with recycling and disposing of cars?

    If you’re getting rid of your personal car, you can usually arrange for free collection by a scrap dealer. However, businesses producing large volumes of car and automotive waste must cover the cost of their safe disposal.

    At Business Waste, we offer solutions to collect and dispose of all sorts of car waste at a low cost. We’ll even complete a waste audit on your behalf, helping you to cut costs and reduce your overall waste at the same time.

  • How many cars are there?

    It’s estimated that around 32 million passenger cars are driven on UK roads every year. In 2021 there were more than 859,000 cars built in the UK. There were also more than 72,000 commercial vehicles and 1.6 million engines made.

  • How many cars end up in landfills?

    It’s estimated that around 35% of cars end up in landfills, even though they can easily be recycled.

  • What are some car recycling facts?

    Steel is an excellent material for any product because it can be recycled endlessly without losing its original qualities. Furthermore, recycling just one tonne of steel saves 2,500 pounds of iron, 1,400 pounds of coal and around 120 pounds of limestone.

    The automotive industry as a whole has reduced landfill waste by around 90% since the early 2000s.

  • Where can you take cars to recycle or dispose of them for free?

    There are various steps you can take to recycle or dispose of cars for free. For example, you could donate your old vehicle to charities such as Give A Car, which work to reduce car waste by repairing cars and giving them to those who need them.

  • Do I need to notify the DVLA if I scrap my car?

    Yes – in the UK you must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you scrap your car or it’s written off. This is because scrapping your car is the same as selling it to your insurance company or the scrap dealer.

Learn about more 
waste types

Find out more about other rubbish streams.

Read our guides to waste types
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