Recycling of the Changing Automobile and Its Impact on Sustainability 2011-01-0853
Over 250 million vehicles are operating on United States roads and highways and over 12 million of them reach the end of their useful lives annually. These end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) contain over 24 million tons (21.8 million metric tonnes) of materials including ferrous and non-ferrous metals, polymers, glass, and automotive fluids. They also contain many parts and components that are still useable and some that could be economically rebuilt or remanufactured. Dismantlers acquire the ELVs and recover from them parts for resale “as-is” or after remanufacturing. The dismantler then sells what remains of the vehicle, the “hulk”, to a shredder who shreds it to recover and sell the metals. Presently, the remaining non-metallic materials, commonly known as shredder residue, are mostly landfilled. The vehicle manufacturers, now more than ever, are working hard to build more energy efficient and safer, more affordable vehicles. In the process, new valuable materials and parts are constantly introduced in new models. These materials present the recyclers with new business opportunities and with new challenges when the vehicles enter the recycling stream. New tools and technologies are needed to realize these opportunities and to maximize the recycling of the ELVs. This paper discusses opportunities and challenges facing the automobile recycling industries in the future.