It has been eleven years since I sold my car—and I have never looked back. I was in college back then and money was very tight. Getting rid of the car freed up resources I desperately needed to make ends meet. I asked my mom for the red, rusty, ramshackle old bicycle that she used to ride when she was my age and learned how to ride a bike in the city. It was truly empowering!
However, I know this is not always an option. You might live in a rural area, in a city where cycling is not a safe option, or where you have very limited access to public transportation. In this case, I’m afraid I am not the best person to give advice on how to reduce your emissions in this department.
Luckily, Carmen has you covered there!
Whether you are considering ditching your car for good, or just wondering what to do with your old car that might be literally falling apart—Carmen was so kind and compiled some information on car recycling for you!
Thank you, Carmen, for sharing this with us on my blog, as this is obviously a topic I know little about!!
At twenty-one, I was driving a car that was only two years younger than me. It got me from A to B in the year that I owned it, and by the time inspection came around the car failed, twice. I was faced with a very real problem, do I put more money into it than it’s worth? Or trash it. I chose the latter, and was lucky enough to have a mechanic who offered to recycle the car for me. A process I didn’t even know existed.
If you’re anything like me, I generally, try to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle, and transportation is a huge factor. According to the EPA website, transportation contributes to nearly one-third of all greenhouse emissions in the U.S. alone.
While, I can acknowledge that the most environmentally sound solutions are of course bike riding, and public transportation, they unfortunately, are not always the most practical.
Think of rural and suburban areas, or areas with uneven or dangerous terrain, in these locations, bike riding and public transport are not feasible. Asking everyone to bike as a means of commuting is theoretically the best option, but it is not the most viable.
The reality is that we exist in a world where cars are a necessity for a large percentage of the population. It seems that each year cars are becoming more environmentally conscious, which is certainly a step in the right direction. However, with new technology comes higher prices and more waste, and using what you already have is significantly less wasteful than buying something new.
So how do we fix our transportation emission issue using what we’ve already got? Two words.
Some more Tips: Reduce Your Transportation Emission
I thought I’d ask my parents-in-law for some advice! They live in a small town with poor public transportation. As my father in law is now retired, they have sold one of their two cars.
Of course, driving their (now only) car is still their main mode of transportation, yet they still do what they can to reduce their transportation emissions!
- My father-in-law now rides an ebike, which is also a lot cheaper than owning a second car! (Which is amazing really, considering we used to make fun of him calling him his car’s conjoined twin only last year 🤪.)
- To stay fit now she’s in her 60ies, my mother-in-law has started to commute on her (non-motorized) bicycle to work whenever the weather is nice—one hour each way!
- They have started to take the bus whenever possible (which isn’t very often really, but still very cool)
What is Car Recycling?
Car recycling — also known as auto or vehicle recycling — is by definition the act of dismantling End-of-Life Vehicles or ELVs to reuse their materials, fluids, and metals.
It is estimated that fourteen million cars will be deemed ELV status each year in the U.S., ELVs also cause an additional eight to nine million tons of waste in Europe. This is a global issue.
The good news is that cars are considered the most recyclable items, with 75 percent of ELVs being able to be reused in some form or another. To put this in perspective, when recycled, only 61 percent of a soda can be reused, making a car more easily recycled than a soft drink.
In addition, vehicles are known to be the number one recycled item. This is not a new concept, and the auto recycling industry has been around in one form or another for over 75 years. So why is this important now?
In light of the recent global pandemic, the world witnessed a dramatic 17 percent drop in carbon emissions. However, scholars say it is likely that this drop won’t last as the global economy begins to reopen.
With scientists predicting only a decade left before global warming causes irreversible damage, it is more crucial now than ever to change the way in which we deal with trash. If a vehicle is nearing ELV status, why let it rot in the Earth? There are several companies that are willing to pay for such valuable parts. And you’ll be helping the Earth in the process. A win-win situation!
What It Looks Like
The call to action is clear, but actually taking the actions necessary to conserve our planet and reduce automobile waste is a major step on its own. So how do we get started?
First and foremost, waste reduction begins with making less parts. That’s right, stop making the parts altogether. Car recycling is about more than just upcycling old vehicles, it also includes reducing production and reusing everything available, typically through repairs.
A car is one of those rare items where the parts are worth far more than the whole, being able to salvage parts from even the most wrecked vehicles is better than trashing the whole item.
A fairly simple solution is repairing what you’ve already got. This goes beyond the individual and into the industry as a whole. Using repaired parts in another vehicle on an industry level is also known as remanufacturing, and it is more common than you think.
More than 90 percent of starter and alternator replacements are remanufactured from previous vehicles. Also remanufactured and repaired are engines, transmissions, brake systems, and water pumps.
In some cases a part can be repaired and remanufactured in a way that serves a whole new purpose. This is commonly seen with batteries. Ninety-five percent of batteries can be used not just in the making or repairing of another car, but in other industries as well. As a matter of fact, the EPA reports that 99 percent of this current generation recycles batteries.
When push comes to shove and it’s not worth the money to continue to try to salvage your vehicle, recycling the entire car is the best option.
Within the last twenty years, at least ten European countries, and two Asian countries have put forth laws that require ELVs to be recycled at the responsibility of the car production companies themselves. Though there is no such law in the U.S on a Federal level, several non-profits and other services are available and easily accessible for car owners looking to recycle their ELV.
After speaking to someone at sellmax.com, I learned that car recycling is extremely cost effective. With new steel production being high in cost and carbon emissions, recycled ELVs can produce enough steel to build approximately 13 million new vehicles in the U.S. and Canada.
Ultimately, the practice of car recycling has created a much needed industry. One that has proven to be sustainable, cost-effective, and profitable. The action of recycling your old vehicle is easy, and beneficial to the environment.
The Earth is heating up and we’ve already seen the lasting impacts in the forms of climate change, and loss of entire ecosystems. The least we can do is not contribute to environmental decline. Next time you need a replacement part or a new vehicle altogether, do a quick google search to find a service near you that uses recycled parts. Your car will work the same, and the environment will thank you for it.