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  • Writer's pictureTroy Smith

How Auto Recycling Works: A Step-by-Step Guide

Auto recycling is a crucial process that helps mitigate environmental impact by repurposing materials from vehicles that are no longer in use. Here's a detailed step-by-step guide to how this important process works, from collection to the final handling of materials, including the often overlooked non-recyclable parts.


Auto Recycling


The auto recycling process begins with the collection of end-of-life vehicles (ELVs). These are typically cars that are no longer operational or cost-effective to repair. Auto recyclers acquire these vehicles through auctions, insurance companies, or directly from owners. They then transport the vehicles to recycling facilities.



Before dismantling the vehicle, it’s essential to remove all hazardous materials to ensure environmental safety. This process, known as depollution, involves draining various fluids such as engine oil, coolant, and brake fluid. Batteries and airbags are also removed at this stage because of their potential environmental and safety hazards.



Once the vehicle is depolluted, the dismantling process begins. Recyclers remove valuable components that can be reused, refurbished, or sold as is. Commonly salvaged parts include the engine, transmission, electronic modules, and even interior components like seats and stereos.



After the valuable parts are removed, the remaining vehicle husk is crushed and sent to a shredding facility. Here, the crushed cars are broken down into smaller chunks. These shredding operations use powerful magnets and other sorting technologies to separate ferrous metals (like steel) from non-ferrous materials (such as aluminum).



The separated materials are then further processed. Metals are typically sent to smelters where they are melted down and repurposed for new products. Non-metallic materials, such as plastics and glass, are sorted and sent to recycling facilities designed to handle specific types of materials.



Despite advancements in recycling technologies, some parts of a vehicle are not recyclable. These include certain plastics and composite materials. Handling these materials responsibly is crucial to minimize their environmental impact. Non-recyclable materials are often used for energy recovery — they are burned in controlled environments to generate energy while capturing emissions.



The recycled materials and parts find new life in various ways. Metals might become components of new vehicles or other products, while refurbished parts are sold to automotive repair shops and consumers. This not only reduces waste but also conserves the energy and raw materials needed to manufacture new parts.


Auto recycling is a complex but highly beneficial process that reduces landfill waste, conserves resources, and supports a sustainable environment. As technology advances, the industry continues to find new ways to recycle materials more efficiently and handle non-recyclable components more effectively. By understanding and supporting these efforts



Troy Smith

Two Four Media for Rubicon Automotive Group



How Auto Recycling Works: A Step-by-Step Guide

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