Automobiles are the world’s most-recycled consumer product, with 95% of retired automobiles are processed for recycling every year. From floor mats and fluids to aluminum and steel, approximately 86% of a car’s material content is recycled, reused, or used for energy recovery. Automobiles are a primary example of a product that’s end-of-life disposal is already thoroughly developed.
Auto recyclers remove parts such as engines, transmissions, doors and bumpers for reuse in other vehicles. Other parts that can also be remanufactured include starters, alternators and water pumps. Batteries, catalytic converters, tires and some plastics are removed and their materials are recycled into new products. Fluids such as engine oil, coolant, and gasoline are carefully managed to prevent releases by storing them in double-walled tanks and/or secondary containment prior to being reused or recycled.
Autos are Among the Most Recycled Consumer Products in the U.S.
Here’s what happens to some common components of automobiles during recycling:
Old consumer products are recycled into components of new vehicles. For instance, milk jugs are recycled into auto trim, carpet and used clothing into sounddeadening material, and spent battery casings become splash shields. Recycled plastic bottles are used to make heating and air conditioning vent covers and engine oil level gauges. Nylon carpet is used in air cleaners and evaporative emissions systems. Additional post-consumer plastics are used in components like underbody shields, battery trays, fan shrouds, air conditioner housings and carpets.
Approximately 86% of a vehicle’s material content is recycled, reused or used for energy recovery. For example, used carpet becomes air cleaner assemblies and engine fan modules, and manufacturers build new tires with 10% recycled tire rubber material. Recycled tire rubber is also used in brake pedals or floor mats.