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How Much of a Car is Really Recyclable?

As pre-owned auto parts remain a popular money-saving option for drivers in the United States, you may find yourself thinking about where those parts come from and how much of a vehicle is actually recycled once it’s outlived its use. You may be surprised to find out just how much of a car is made from recycled materials and how much resources are saved in reusing automotive parts and materials. This brief article will look at some of the numbers in order to break down just how valuable recycling is in the automotive industry.

You might think just a few parts here and there, like the battery, tires and body panels on a car are some of the main recycled parts and the rest of the car is crushed and taken to a landfill somewhere. In actuality, about 80-85% of most modern cars can be, and are, recycled. Many various parts can be removed, tested and resold to customers at discounted prices compared to new parts, and automakers and environmental activists work together to ensure as many recyclable materials as possible are used in the production of cars. Because of these efforts, the automotive recycling industry is the 16th largest industry in the country, with about 7,000 auto recycling facilities operating across the country generating $25 billion annually for the national GDP and providing jobs to over 100,000 people.

It probably will come as no surprise that most of what is recycled on a car are the different metal parts found throughout the vehicle. Roughly 25% of a car is made from recycled steel, and each year about 14 million tons of steel are taken from salvaged vehicles and recycled. In the Unites States and Canada, that’s enough recycled steel to produce 13 million new vehicles per year! Estimates suggest that, with each ton of steel recycled, 1400 pounds of coal, 120 pounds of limestone, and 2500 pounds of iron ore that would have otherwise been used in refining new steel are saved. When it comes to the aluminum parts, although they only make up about 10% of the vehicle by weight, the recycled aluminum is worth nearly half of the recycled vehicle’s value.

Each year, nearly 220 million tires are produced in the United States, and 80% of them are recycled at the end of their life. Recycled tire rubber has many uses, such as being used in asphalt, as turf on artificial sports fields, or even as a softer alternative to woodchips on a playground. Considering how long rubber tires can sit in landfills and harm the environment, it’s important that we try to minimize the negative impact they have by recycling tires whenever possible.

Heading under the hood, wires and belts that don’t show obvious signs of damage and wearing out can be recycled and reused in vehicles that need replacements. If left undamaged and with low enough miles on it, entire engines can be reused in vehicles, or even rebuilt with newer parts to create an even more powerful or more efficient engine than what you originally started with. Alternators, transmissions, and other mechanical parts can be tested, cleaned, rebuilt and reused just like engines if they are undamaged and kept in good condition. Finally, it probably comes as no surprise that batteries can also be recycled; When you turn in an old battery after purchasing a new one, the old core is removed and recycled for later use.

Until fairly recently, auto glass has simply been discarded as the glass is actually layered between sheets of plastic to increase durability, making the materials difficult to separate and refine. However, new technologies have made it easier to process and recycle auto glass, which can be broken down and remade into new auto glass, or can be used in making concrete, fiberglass insulation, bottles and more. Further, if a windshield is in relatively good shape, it can be used to replace a damaged windshield at lower cost than getting a completely new windshield. In fact, on average about 15 million vehicles get their windshields replaced each year.

Many people may be surprised to find out that a vehicle’s fluids can also be recycled. Oil never actually goes bad, it just gets dirty with use over time. While improperly disposed oils and fluids can cause huge damages to the environment, the right cleaning and recycling of those same fluids can greatly help the health of the environment. Each year, automotive recyclers clean and recycle about eight times more oil and hazardous fluids than the amount leaked into the environment during the Exxon Valdez disaster!

Overall, once you really look at the numbers, it’s impressive to see just how much of a vehicle can be recycled. Considering how many resources go into producing a car and how many cars are on the roads, it’s no wonder why the automotive recycling industry is so important to the national economy. With efforts constantly moving towards more recycling and even cleaner means of production, we truly have a great opportunity to help the environment and save consumers money by recycling our old cars.

Holbrook Auto Parts is honored to have had the opportunity to help clean the environment and provide drivers in Detroit with affordable options on their auto parts and repairs with their service. For over 75 years, Holbrook Auto Parts has safely removed vehicles from the city streets and recycled the parts and materials for future use. If you’re looking to get rid of your old car or want to save money by buying pre-owned parts next time you need a repair, there’s nowhere better than Holbrook Auto Parts!

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