How much of my scrap car will be recycled?

If your car has outlived its usefulness you may be planning on having it taken to an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF). These scrap yards are dedicated vehicle dismantlers that have proven they use the correct procedures dictated by the Environmental Agency (EA) for scrapping end of life vehicles. In the following passages, we’ll investigate what these processes involve and just how much of a scrap car goes on to be reused.

Recycling cars within the law

While the law once required 85% of every vehicle’s weight scrapped to be recycled, this amount increased in 2016 with UK legislation demanding an exacting target of 95%. The remaining 5% is referred to as auto shredder residue and includes glass, dirt, non-ferrous and ferrous metal pieces, and heavier plastics.

Depollution and destruction

ATFs will first depollute vehicles removing hazardous materials like unused oil and batteries, so a Certificate of Destruction can be issued stating they are safe to be shredded. The car is then broken into tiny pieces by massive rotary hammers that can shred a car in about 15 seconds. The small pieces then drop through a grating to a conveyor belt that carries them beneath powerful magnets that collect recyclable steel and leave other materials behind.


Less weighty materials such as light plastic, rubber, fabric, and foam are extracted using a high-intensity vacuum. While previously they would have been sent to landfill, new technology allows them to be converted into a gas that is then used to create steam for electricity.

Separating metals and plastics

Where possible the remaining materials are also split from each other, with metals like copper and aluminium divided and new solutions even returning heavy plastics back to their initial properties using a process called “plastic polymers”. Reformed into plastic pellets, the waste material can be used in new car part moulds.

Where does steel go after recycling?

The recycled steel is returned to the ATF foundry before being repurposed. Around 25% of recycled steel remains here in the UK with the rest exported to other countries.

Safe and legal scrapping on hand

Motorwise is fully licensed and is regulated by the Environment Agency. Our commitment is to reduce waste and pollution from vehicle disposal, so we offer legally compliant and safe access to car scrapping solutions at official ATFs. Learn more about how we calculate scrap car values here.

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