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Your old car can become tomorrow’s products

Olivia Healey

Recycling a car graphic

Global leader in sustainable materials, EMR, is one of the most advanced end-of-life vehicle (ELV) recyclers in the UK. With its cutting-edge facilities, EMR has the capability to recover up to 95% of materials in vehicles, which it then recycled so that they can become tomorrow's products.

Over the past decade, EMR has made substantial investments into pioneering technology and strategic partnerships, enabling the company to recycle up to 100 cars an hour, at its 50+ sites across the UK.

David Holdcroft, EMR Commercial Director says: "At EMR, we benefit from state-of-the-art recycling operations, which ensure that as much of the steel, aluminium, copper, plastic and other materials used to build a modern vehicle are re-used within a sustainable, circular supply chain, while also helping to reduce carbon emissions."

When EMR receives a vehicle for recycling, this is just the start of the story. Before recycling the metal and other components, vehicles must go through a 'depollution' process. EMR has the largest network of Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs) in the UK, ensuring the responsible removal of hazardous materials from vehicles to protect the environment.

The first job, on receiving a vehicle, is for EMR’s highly skilled team to remove all the harmful liquids, including remaining fuel, oil, brake fluid and air conditioning gases. These are then safely stored before being taken away to be processed and recycled by specialist contractors. Once the fluids and tyres have been removed, vehicles are then ready to be shredded.

David adds: "EMR has six shredder facilities in the UK, where we can process up to 300 vehicles an hour, resulting in much smaller, fist-sized materials which are easier to separate. Our giant shredders – which operate with between 2,500 and 10,000 horsepower – begin the separation process, using powerful magnets to divide ferrous metals, such as iron and steel.

“Ferrous metal counts for approximately 65 percent of the total material in most cars, and this is sent straight to local steel mills, or exported for processing, so that it can be sustainably and responsibly re-used in the next generation of vehicles, consumer goods or in construction.”

As a result of the shredder compacting process, the vast reduction in the size of materials also means lower carbon transportation. By minimising the space that the metals occupy, fewer vehicles are needed on the road, promoting efficiency and reducing environmental impact.

The rest of the material includes non-ferrous metals, such as aluminium, copper, brass and zinc, alongside plastic, wood, foam, rubber, and paint. These are separated by removing the lighter material, leaving behind the heavy material.

Historically, some of this light material would end up in landfill, but EMR has invested significantly in developing processes that extract any valuable material for recycling.

David adds: “Being a prominent global metal recycling company, our commitment to zero waste goes beyond just metal. We also actively recycle a significant portion of the plastics within our own facilities.”

Up to 40,000 tonnes of plastic from vehicles can now be repurposed and turned into high-quality virgin polymer substitutes at EMR's plastic division, MBA Polymers UK. Instead of ending up as landfill, it is given a new life as tomorrow's products and components in the next generation of vehicles, alarm clocks or washing machines.

As the market leader for vehicle recycling in the UK, EMR is constantly improving its processes and equipment to maximise recovery for vehicles on the road today and in the future. By working directly with many of the world’s biggest vehicle manufacturers, the organisation can drive innovation and sustainable change in the automotive industry for the next generation of cars.