Automobiles have for long been the bête -noire of environmentalists. They cause pollution. They guzzle fuel. They require way too many resources – natural resources at that – for manufacturing. The list goes on and on.
While these complaints are justified, one interesting fact about the automotive industry often gets overlooked. Automotive manufacturers are among the most efficient recyclers in the U.S. and auto recycling is the 16th largest industry in the country.
According to the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), the auto recycling industry has been working towards environmental conservation and providing green employment for more than three quarters of a century now.
There are approximately 7,000 vehicle-recycling operations around the country – ranging from the local junkyards to global scrap metal recyclers like Sims Metal Management that have the capabilities to process end-of-life vehicles.
Automakers – the conscious keepers of the recycling industry?
Automakers are among the most proficient corporate recyclers in the country. They’re constantly innovating ways to increase recycling opportunities and thanks to their efforts, advances in technology, and a general increase in awareness levels, automobiles are now the most recycled consumer product in the world.
In fact, 95 percent of retired vehicles are processed for recycling each year, according to the ARA report. But even within the auto industry, there are a few names whose efforts towards auto and scrap metal recycling shine through.
A couple of names that come to mind are Mazda and Toyota that have taken giant strides in manufacturing easy to dismantle cars, reduce waste, and reuse materials wherever possible.
Mazda, for example, has poured massive amounts of resources into researching automobile designs that take into consideration ease of dismantling to simplify the recovery of parts and materials that can be reused. Thanks to the efforts of their research team, the automobile maker has achieved the recyclability ratio of 90 percent or better for its cars when the industry standard is about 80 percent.
Some of Mazda’s other green initiatives include:
- Reducing the quantity of automobile shredder residue produced. This is the residue left after metals have been removed from the shredded car bodies and comprises of glass, rubber, plastic, etc.
- Making efforts towards carbon neutralization through developing natural materials that can be made into eco-plastics.
- Recycling damaged bumpers into bumpers for new cars. In 2004, the company collected 47,300 bumpers and utilized them in components for new cars.
The other carmaker whose recycling initiatives are worth a mention is Toyota. The company’s recycling activities take into account the entire lifecycle of a vehicle.
It starts at the development stage with easy-to-recycle materials and dismantling designs and moves on to production with consideration for reduction of waste and development of recycling technologies for all types of materials.
At the user stage, the company has established a system for collecting and recycling bumpers and reusing automobile parts for its dealers. For end-of-life vehicles, Toyota has been advancing research into efficient dismantling technologies and utilization of shredder residue.
What’s more, about 99 percent of all scrap steel generated by Toyota plants is now recycled as are many waste items including plastic wraps, paint solvents, used oil, packaging materials, and cardboard.
Metal comprises about 75 percent of a vehicle. In fact, the average recycling rate for steel and iron in cars is close to 100 percent, according to the World Steel Association.
Recovering and recycling scrap metal from end-of-life vehicle is, therefore, a very achievable target and benefits of doing so are manifold from resource conservation to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. So, if there’s an old and unused car in your garage, you know what to do with it.
About the Author: Anne Staley is an environmentalist who likes to express her thoughts and beliefs through the written word. Her motto in life is to better the lives of others through the knowledge she shares. She loves nature and urges her readers to go green. She shares her thoughts through creative writing and blogs.
Edited by Maurice Nagle