Scrap Car Recycling in 3 Steps – How Ambitious EU Targets are Achieved and UK’s Rate Beats the Rest!

How does the motor industry meet its ambitious scrap car recycling targets?

Image provides thumbnail picture explaining that he motor industry has out performed the sustainability targets set by EU regulators.

Back in 2015, the European Union set an incredibly difficult target for vehicle recycling (also known as scrap car recycling) in the motor industry.

It was decided that with some changes to manufacturing processes and how “end of life vehicles” (ELVs) were handled, 95% of the materials used to make a vehicle should be recovered and reused when recycling scrap cars.

With lots of steel and aluminium in scrap cars, recycling rates we already fairly high – with around 85% of materials recovered – but the latest EU figures show that the UK has managed to bump that number up to 96.9%; a figure that beats Germany, France, Norway, and Sweden.

To understand how the UK is leading the way with scrap car recycling, we’ll take a look at the scrap car recycling journey.

A new approach to recycling scrap cars

Although 2015 marked the point at which the UK was expected to reuse/recover 95% of ELV material – the EU’s ELV Directive was actually brought in during Sept 2000, and it represented a staggered approach to reaching this high rate of material recovery.

By 2006, EU states were expected to have reached an 85% recovery rate – and the 15-year overall window was designed to allow new manufacturing processes and materials to complete their life-cycling as a vehicle – before being handled by Europe’s scrap yards.

Higher standards for facilities that recycle scrap cars

In response to the new EU directive, the UK government introduced The End-of-Life Vehicles Regulations in 2003. This wide-spanning piece of legislation introduced the requirement for scrap yards to become registered ‘Authorised Treatment Facilities’ (ATFs).

Drycake Twister food waste depackaging plastics separator

As well as following a strict set of environmental rules, ATFs would become the only scrap car recycling facilities that could officially destroy an ELV.

To make the destruction process official, the ‘Certificate of Destruction’ (COD) was also introduced – a now essential piece of paperwork issued by the DVLA and sent to the ATF, confirming that the car has been destroyed and is no longer the responsibility of the previous keeper.

This scaffolding that now surrounded the ELV process now meant that cars would not slip through any cracks; every scrap vehicle would be subject to the same official process – handled in a prescribed way by authorised dismantlers.

Recycling scrap cars: the process

Although TV programmes and kid’s cartoons might lead you to believe otherwise, scrap cars do not simply get crushed into a cube and stacked up! In fact, the process is incredibly involved.

This video shows a detailed breakdown of the process – but we’ve summarised it and expanded on some of the steps you’ll see in the video below:

Step 1: Depollution

When your car arrives at the ATF, any hazardous fluids or substances are removed from the vehicle. Generally, this will include:

  • Petrol/Diesel
  • Engine oil
  • Batteries
  • Engine coolant
  • Brake and transmission fluid
  • Windscreen washer fluid

It’s vital that these are removed carefully and handled appropriately. With millions of ELVs processed every year in the UK, there’s the potential for millions of gallons of dangerous fluids to escape and damage the environment if handled recklessly.

Sometimes, these substances will be removed from the site and handled by a specialist company – but it’s not uncommon for ATFs to begin processing these substances on-site. For instance, many ATFs will use specialist storage solutions that allow for ‘reverse osmosis’ – a process that involves passing hazardous fluids over a series of membranes that capture the chemical components and leave clean water.

With fluid removed from the car and handled – the systems that have held these fluids are flushed through, making sure there’s no trace of any impurity before the car moves to the next part of the process.

Drycake Twister food waste depackaging plastics separator

Step 2: Dismantling

With the car clear of hazardous substances, the dismantling process can begin. Generally, this will involve removing – at the very least – the catalytic converter, the tyres, and the glass from the car.

Tyres can be especially harmful to the environment if they’re not recycled appropriately – so they will be sent to a specialist company who will handle them. Reuse is the name-of-the-game with tyres – and many become soft-floor coverings for sports areas and playgrounds.

The catalytic converter will receive special attention too – not least because the filter inside it contains a host of precious metals that help with the exhaust filtering process. These precious metals can be reused in a host of applications – from medical devices to jewellery.

With these parts removed, the facility will decide whether the car is crushed and shredded – or whether further parts are removed intact and recovered for resale.

Step 3: Destruction and recovery

Until the destruction stage, the vehicle still looks somewhat like a car – but specialist hydraulic presses and industrial shredders will soon change that.

With some or all parts removed from the vehicle, it will then be compressed and fed into a high-powered shredding machine – where even tough steel components will be turned into small chunks, roughly the size of your hand. Since many vehicle parts are coated in tin to prevent rusting, these parts will be ‘detinned’ in a chemical bath to remove this coating – making the materials more easily reused.

The shredded parts from the car are separated again – with most materials generally sold back into manufacturing industries, creating a more circular economy around the motor industry.

Of course, not everything is neatly packaged up and used again – but as technology develops, even the left-over plastics, rubbers, fibres and glass can be reused. These ‘left-over’ materials are referred to as Automotive Shredder Residue (ASR) – and there are specialist companies who can process this material and use it create synthetic crude oil – slightly easing the strain on the planet’s natural reserves.

Driving recycling forward

They might not look it at a glance, but the dismantlers and yards that recycle scrap cars are actually helping to push the industry forward like never before – and as new manufacturing processes creep through into ELVs, the process will become more and more efficient.

We’re not quite at the stage where 100% of any truly practical car can be reused or recycled – but as more and more manufacturers acknowledge their environmental responsibilities, we’re edging closer to fully sustainable transport all the time.

Drycake Twister food waste depackaging plastics separator
Wood Profits Banner
Tags: ,
Previous Post
Borger EL1550 pump Arjun Infrastructures’ WtE Plant.
energy from waste

Börger EL1550 Pumps Rise to Challenge Lubricating Arjun Infrastructures’ New Waste to Energy Plant London

Next Post

How Much Plastic is Recycled – US and UK Recycling Video Explains


  1. I had no idea that the metals found in a catalytic converter can be used in medical devices and jewelry. I want to recycle my old car and get money for it. I might take out the catalytic converter first and recycle it by itself for more money.

  2. Here we have a best site which porviding you a best services of recycling the unwanted car removels and to make your car junk-free.

  3. Excellent post! Everyone should read before buying any second-hand car. Keep post this kind of articles and update us. Thanks again, buddy.

  4. Vishal – This is an area for making comments. It is not the appropriate place for you to put advertising, without even the least effort made to say something constructive about the article. I amended your comment.

    • Cash for cars Auckland
    • 29 October 2020

    Thank you very much for scrap car recycling, it’s difficult for me to get such kind of information most of the time always… I really hope I can work on your tips and it works for me too, I am happy to come across your article.

  5. This concept is very good which give us information regarding the scrap car recycling. It is a pleasure worth reading this article. I enjoyed reading this article and would suggest others to come In this particular blog and get all the information regarding it.

    • Jonus Smithy
    • 13 July 2021

    One tonne of recycled steel saves 1.5 tonnes of iron ore and half a tonne of coal or fuel. Despite this, I receive as low as $70 for each tonne of steel I recycle. This makes no sense to me. The person selling the raw material should benefit, not the middleman. Consider how much more material would be recycled if it were a bit easier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.