Metal, glass, plastic & fluff - where it all ends up after a car is scrapped

It has long been said that cars are the world’s most recycled consumer product. A surprising percentage of the parts of a vehicle can be put to new uses.

The UK has one of the most efficient, economical and environmentally-friendly car scrapping industries on the planet. Stringent legislative targets mean that 95% of a car must be recycled when it is scrapped in Great Britain. But what are the main materials comprising a car eventually turned into? You might be surprised.

The metal of a car is almost fully recycled

In the UK, an astonishing 99% of all steel recovered from scrapped cars is recycled. Around 70% of a car’s total weight is made up of steel. Only a quarter of that total remains in this country though as most of it heads abroad for reuse.

Where the plastic ends up

Modern cars can have up to 20 different types of plastic in them. The actual volume of plastic in a vehicle can be as high as 50%, yet the weight may only account for 10% of the total car.

Plastics from end-of-life vehicles are recycled back into component parts for new cars or used to make everything from garden pots to carpet glue.

Auto glass

Recycling windscreens and car windows used to be prohibitively difficult. That’s because auto glass is fitted with a plastic shield to reduce the chances of it shattering. Modern recycling techniques mean that automotive glass is now salvaged and repurposed into fibreglass insulation, concrete blocks and glass bottles.

Fluff from cars

As humans, we generate an awful lot of fluff in our homes and our cars. It is estimated that in the US, five million tonnes of fluff is generated every year that has to be disposed of.

This used to be dumped in landfill, but innovative new techniques have used discarded automobile fluff to actually cover landfill waste. Covering landfills helps prevent the rubbish from flying away. It also reduces the interaction between waste and the air and so reduces odours and allows a firm base on which vehicles can operate.

Fluff can also be used as a fuel in cement kilns but much of it contains petroleum, so efforts are underway to break down the petrochemicals in car fluff so that they can be used in new ways.

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