Toxicity of Vehicles and Recyclability

There are millions and trillions of passenger vehicles running on the road today out of which many reach the end of their lives every year. Such large numbers of vehicles both on the roads and in waste streams have brought the attention to the environmental impacts from the use of automobiles, such as emissions, climate change and fuel economy. Such impacts have implications for both the use and design of automobiles.

Brake debris and tire particles raise toxicity levels in nearby soils, and also lead to the formation of black carbon which ultimately causes lung toxicity. Painting and coating discharges hazardous material such as nickel, copper, and hexavalent chromium into the atmosphere. Heavier vehicles require greater amounts of resistance and brake pressure that lead to larger deposits of brake debris and tire particles in the atmosphere.

Use of light-weight carbon fiber-reinforced polymers (CFRPs) instead of heavier steel and alloy vehicle components reduce the environmental impacts of automobiles. CFRPs are typically incinerated at the vehicle’s end-of-life stage for reuse and recycle of such materials. The typical automobile contains a lead-acid battery which releases tons of lead into the environment. Lead-acid battery can be returned to the manufacturers who recover and recycle 93% of the lead.

Auto shredder residue represents enormous potential for the release of toxics into the environment. Auto shredder residue (ASR) consists of material leftover after a vehicle is stripped of its economically recoverable elements and then shredded. It contains rubber, foam, plastic, and cloth contaminated with lead, cadmium, mercury, chrome, PCBs, phthalates, PBDEs and other toxics. The automotive recycling industry generates 2 billion pounds of ASR per year.

The process of recycling a vehicle is extremely complicated as there are many parts to be recycled and many hazardous materials to remove. Millions of vehicles reach the end of their use each year and have a purpose by giving back the metal and other recyclable materials that are contained in them. The vehicles are shredded and the metal content is recovered for recycling. The more frequently recycled metals are scrap steel, iron (ISS), lead, aluminium, copper, stainless steel and zinc.

According to research conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency, recycling scrap metals can be quite beneficial to the environment. Scrap is often taken to a wrecking yard (junkyard) where customers are allowed to browse their lot and purchase items before they are sent for melting into new products. In recent years it is becoming increasingly common to buy used auto parts as reuse is the highest form of recycling as it saves the cost and resources of manufacturing and transporting a new product. Our website also facilitates consumers to buy used auto parts online and reduce the environmental hazards.