What happens to the materials from my recycled car?

When a vehicle reaches the end of its useful life, due to age or damage, it can be scrapped, or more accurately, recycled. Regulations in the UK stipulate that 95% of End-of-Life-Vehicles (ELVs) must be recycled.

So, what materials does a car contain, and where do they end up once they leave the scrapyard?

Resalable and remanufactured parts

An average car is made out of many different materials, including ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals, plastics, rubber, glass, electrical parts, and textiles.

However, before each material is separated out, broken down, and sent to recycling plants to make new products, items or parts that can be sold on in their current state are removed. These could include batteries, wheels, and tyres, as well as fuel, oil, and coolant fluids. These items are then used directly in other road-going vehicles.

In addition, parts that are not currently in a usable state but can be remanufactured to bring them up to standard, e.g. the engine, are removed and sent off to various remanufacturing companies. Once the transformation is complete, sometimes resulting in an improvement on the original, they are given a new warranty and are used again in road-going vehicles.

Ferrous metals

The majority of material in a car is made of ferrous metal, which means it contains iron. When this metal has been broken down into smaller pieces, it can be used to make new steel products.

Non-ferrous metals

There are also non-ferrous metals in scrap cars, which don’t contain iron e.g, aluminium and copper. When separated from other scrap car materials, they are broken down into smaller pieces too and re-melted to make new products.

The aluminium from your scrap car could be used to make a new wing for an aeroplane, foil for use in baking or cans for fizzy drinks.


The amount of plastic used in cars is increasing, as manufacturers look to make vehicles lighter to improve fuel consumption. It is important, then, that companies find ways to recycle more and more types of plastic.

Not all of the plastic from scrap vehicles can currently be recycled, however, some can, e.g. car bumpers. The plastic is processed and broken down into small beads that can then be used to make new products. Who knows, the next time you use a new TV remote control, it could include plastic from your recycled car!

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