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Car Recycling: A Look into the Past and Present

Cars are more recyclable than you may expect. In fact, recycling aluminum and steel saves our depleting natural resources, all while using less energy to process new metal. Car recycling has become quite efficient in North America, producing enough steel to make 13 million new vehicles each year. Imagine that, after your car has accompanied you through all your adventures and assisted you in your travels, it still has more to give.

The easiest way is to scrap your car through a local recycler – some of them will even provide incentives as encouragement. You can get more money for your scrap car and free removal in Brampton, Ontario or Digby, Nova Scotia, than ever before. It’s good for your time, wallet, and the earth.

How is a Car Recycled?

Once your car gets picked up, it enters a recycling stream, moving it to a vehicle recycling facility or a classic junkyard. In either location, your old car will undergo a few steps:

  1. Inspection: They’re not looking for dents and scratches but instead categorize how much of your car can truly be recycled. This will depend on your car’s current state and model. If it can easily be repaired and profitable, they’ll probably do so and move the car onto a used car dealer. If not, they’ll move it to be recycled.
  2. Draining: A car needs a lot of grease to make it move smoothly. You’ve got gas, transmission and brake fluids, oil and more. Some of these liquids are useful, like gas – this is drained and salvaged, while the others are properly disposed of.
  3. Dismantling: Now that vehicle is dry, the essential parts are taken apart. Think of the engine, tyres, battery, but also the car carpets or foam and plastic within the seats. Each piece is cleaned and then sold as used parts or recycled to remanufacture components.
  4. Crushed: The easily moveable parts are now removed, and it’s only the metal body that’s left. Given this part is the most recyclable, it’s crushed into a smaller, more manageable piece and passed on.

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Recycling the components saves them from landfills – especially the plastics that take hundreds of years to decompose or release toxic chemicals if burned. However, automobile recycling wasn’t always this great in Canada. Let’s go on a short trip down memory lane to appreciate how we got here.

How Were Cars Recycled in the Past?

Cars were traded for cash as early as the 1930s when vehicles were less common and parts were more expensive. Each car was dismantled by hand before the entire vehicle was crushed, and valuable materials like aluminum were melted down and remade into more cars or other valuable items.

Junkyard cars were sought after because of the large amounts of usable metals they contained when mining and transporting these items was difficult. Batteries and radiators were made from hazardous materials during this time, making it demanding for recyclers.

Soon enough, recycling yards switched to machine-assisted dismantling, making the process quicker and safer for workers. This soon led to the age of carpools, but not the one you’re thinking of. These were spaces where damaged cars were piled and taken apart for scrap.

A large yard full of cars waiting to be taken apart sounds like money sitting around, and junkyard owners would hold regular auctions and give the cars to the highest bidder. There was such a high demand for these vehicles that some auto-scrapping business owners would have to wait for up to a month to restock. These auctions still occur but have since moved online.

Until this point, cars were still being produced with hazardous materials and were crushed or almost whole. Cars were crushed wet, allowing toxins into the air and land, usually by non-regulated towing companies or other non-qualified firms. After crushing, these hunks of metal were usually shredded on-site, which would also pollute the environment with micro metals. The Canadian government began a voluntary programme called Retire Your Ride to take cars that emit pollutants off the roads. They’ve also become more hands-on in recycling to make it better for the workers and the environment. The programme has contributed to less air pollution while providing monetary incentives to its people.

Why Should You Recycle Your Car?

It’s worth it! Many older electronics or household items are challenging to recycle or do not have financial value once they stop working. Your car is still valuable after it’s served you. Many provinces have made it easier than ever to turn your used automobile into money, with some programmes offering up to $1,000. Plus, recyclers take vehicles apart with the utmost care for the environment today, so it’s a win-win for everyone.


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