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NATIONAL RECYCLING WEEK 2017: End of Life Vehicle Recycling: ItÂ’s worth it

12 October 2017

The theme of this year’s National Recycling Week, ‘Recycling - It’s Worth It’ holds particular resonance for metal recycling.

With over two million vehicles scrapped legally every year, that’s a staggering amount of different car parts and materials that can either be reused or recycled to conserve precious raw materials.

Legislation introduced in 2015 by the European Union demands that 95% of a vehicle should be recovered. However, when you look at the complex make-up of a car, from
tyres, batteries, electrics, glass, plastics, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, not to mention the various fluids, the recycling process is rather a complex one.

So how has the recycling industry tackled the scrap vehicle recycling challenge? What happens to all of the materials from a vehicle after they’ve been recycled, and most importantly: is it worth it?

The journey to zero waste

Since 2008, EMR has invested £350m in new technologies and partnerships to tackle the logistical and environmental challenge of recycling scrap vehicles. Here we’ve outlined the process that EMR follows to recycle cars responsibly.

At the beginning of a vehicle’s recycling journey, it goes through a depollution facility, which removes pollutants and hazardous materials, including the battery and fluids. Both the battery and the fuel are recycled and reused.

The tyres are also removed at this stage, as these have a wide range of practical uses including being deployed as crash barriers and flood defences or, being ground up and used on 3G sports and playground surfaces.

The vehicle is then shredded into fist-sized pieces. At least 98% of metal in a car is recycled ( Steel - which accounts for around 67% - is picked directly from the shredded parts by powerful magnets to be recycled. Non-ferrous metals such as aluminium are also partially after shredding.

The remaining materials are sent for further mechanical separation, which sorts the waste into plastic, other non-ferrous metals, and aggregates such as sand, stone and glass. The aggregates are used in a variety of industries including concrete manufacturing.

After being separated from the other waste streams, certain plastics are sent to MBA Polymers in Worksop, the largest plastics recycler in the UK and part of EMR. Here, the plastics are reprocessed into polymer pellets for use in electronics, appliances, consumer products, building products and more.

Once the majority of the metals and plastics have been recovered, 13% of the vehicle remains as non-recyclable plastic, fabric, combustible materials, rubber, wood and foam. Previously, this residual waste would be sent to a landfill site for disposal. However, EMR is able to divert the majority of this waste stream from landfill sites through an innovative process known as gasification at their waste to energy plant, which they operate as a joint venture with Chinook Services. This converts the residual waste to gas, which powers a turbine to create electricity. It also makes it possible to recover any remaining scrap metal from the ash to be recycled.

ELV recycling: why it’s worth it

If a vehicle is abandoned or recycled illegally, heavy metals and toxins could leach into the soil and cause serious harm to the environment.

With a commitment to zero waste, EMR’s innovative recycling process can recycle 99% of a vehicle. What was once scrap destined for landfill is now responsibly recycled for multiple uses, reducing the need to harvest natural resources.

By creating valuable resource from ‘waste’, the environmental benefits of EMR’s vehicle recovery process are clear: recycling – it’s worth it.

You can watch a vehicle being recycled by watching our ELV recycling video or to find out more about what to do with a scrap vehicle, download our do’s and don’ts for getting rid of an old car.

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