Do You Know What Your Car is Made of?
August 5, 2016 | Kathryn Kellogg
Last Updated on April 7, 2020
Driving to and from work each day has most likely become mind-numbing to most of us lucky enough to own a vehicle. It’s quite easy to forget that we are essentially driving around a two-ton hunk of metal, glass, rubber, and many other materials. Of course, countless folks living in the US participate in state-run recycling programs and many others even donate to specialized waste reuse organizations. Yet, have you ever thought about recycling your car when it can no longer run or is no longer of use?
Maybe not; before we do, we should examine exactly what a car is made of in order to determine what, if any materials can truly be reused.
What is Actually Inside of My Car?
As you might have suspected, cars are manufactured using mostly metal, about 74%. However, there are some other surprising materials used in the process such as 8% polymer and plastics as well as 6% fluids and lubricants – like brake fluid, transmission fluid, and engine oil.
How to Recycle a Car?
Surprisingly enough, there are facilities that will take an entire junk car for recycling. Unfortunately, these benefits are not offered everywhere in the US. Although, you can check with local junk yards to see if they might be willing to at least take some of the parts for reuse. As an added bonus, they will usually pay for the parts, but surely there are options for donations as well.
You might also be intrigued to know that many of the products used on a car are not easily recyclable. Metal, glass, and plastics are widely known for their recyclability, but what of the remaining items left of a car? For example, rubber tires can take anywhere from 50-80 years to fully decompose. Realistically, if the average American begins driving at age 18, those tires may not be fully decomposed by the time they reach age 98. With that being said, there numerous many ways to reuse old tires in your home or yard. Not only will they withstand weather year round, but they are extremely durable. Not to mention, some programs will go the extra mile and pick up the tires from you in order to recycle them safely and properly.
Many oils and fluids used in the car cannot be used for any other purpose after their first usage. Any unusable items are simply tossed in the trash and sent to a local landfill. Those landfill items are regularly incinerated, dumped into the ocean, or recycled. Needless to say, chemicals that are dumped onto the earth or into the ocean can damage our precious eco-system. Burning these types of liquids can contribute to the deteriorations of the ozone, which directly affects things like global warming. To ensure that these items are not dumped onto a landfill or the ocean, check with your local hazardous waste plant. Such facilities often take very dangerous chemicals, but also take liquids like transmission fluid that are considered recyclable.
Organizations Helping to Reduce Automobile Waste
A group called Wheels 4 Hope accepts used cars for recycle in any condition running or not. The organization works with local mechanics to do their best in restoring the vehicles. Not all cars are able to be completely repaired to working condition, but even the non-working cars are still used. The company will use the spare parts to fix other cars that are brought in.
Once the cars are working they are donated to someone in need. Low income areas are a common target for the organization. The donation is a welcomed gift for those who would have never been able to afford such a luxury, but depend on some reliable form of transportation in order to get to work.
This is just one such example of a beautiful community effort to help those less fortunate. In addition this effort successfully reduces the presence of wasteful items that could not have otherwise been recycled.
Taking a step back to understand exactly what happens to our trash can really open our eyes to glaring problems such as this. Some 11.5 million cars were scrapped in 2013 alone. The sheer amount of unrecyclable material that must have been torn from these vehicles is honestly staggering. If each one of us takes on a small amount of responsibility for our waste we can ensure the safety and health of the wondrous planet we live on, the animals we share it with, and each other.
About the Author: Trisha is a writer from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan who promotes an all-around healthy lifestyle. You can find her on twitter @thatdangvegan and check out her blog thatdangvegan.com
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