Auto recycling is big business

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According to the national organization Auto Alliance, 95 percent of retired automobiles are processed for recycling every year, and 86 percent of a car’s material content is recycled, reused or used for energy recovery. 

The Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) describes “The Road to ReinCARnation.” The automotive recycling industry harvests automobile components for reuse, and recycles the remaining valuable materials into commodities that can be used in the manufacture of new materials such as steel, aluminum, plastic, copper and brass. 

Auto recyclers remove parts such as engines, transmissions, doors and bumpers for reuse in other vehicles, they say. Other parts that can also be remanufactured include starters, alternators and water pumps. Batteries, catalytic converters, tires and some plastics are removed and their materials are recycled into new products. 

Fluids such as engine oil, coolant and gasoline are stored in double-walled tanks and/or secondary containment prior to being reused or recycled. 

Once dismantled, the vehicle is sent to a shredding facility, which pulverizes the vehicle into fist-sized pieces of materials. These pieces are sent by conveyors to sophisticated separation technologies, including magnetic separation, eddy current, laser and infrared systems. The metal recovered by these plants becomes raw material for steel mills, electric arc furnaces, aluminum and other nonferrous metal smelters to manufacture a variety of products, including new vehicles.

The ARA estimates that each year the industry collects and reuses or recycles 100.8 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, 24 million gallons of motor oil, 8 million gallons of engine coolant, 4.5 million gallons of windshield washer fluid and 96 percent of all lead acid batteries.

Here in Clark County, many automotive businesses participate in recycling efforts.

At Auto Zone in Battle Ground, auto fluids are accepted for recycling, said Parts Sales Manager Bree Compton. 

“It’s 100 percent free, you just bring it in,” she said. 

Fluids accepted include motor oil, transmission oil and gear oil. Auto batteries are also accepted for recycling. 

When customers buy their car parts at the Battle Ground NAPA store, they can drop off the old part or parts for recycling. It’s a courtesy for store customers, said Store Manager Todd Strong. Some parts are sent back to the factory to be remanufactured; others have electronic components removed before they are disposed of.

Tires without rims can be dropped off at Dick’s Tire Factory is Battle Ground for a $3 per tire fee, said part-owner Scott Harris. They are shredded and usable components like oil and steel are extracted, then the remains are reused for other products. Recycling is also implemented at the carwash operated at the same business; wash water is recaptured, filtered and reused.

Clark County’s Household Hazardous Waste program accepts several types of auto waste at three area transfer stations, according to Andrew Loescher, communications coordinator for Solid Waste and Environmental Education. You can bring oil, antifreeze, gasoline, brake and transmission fluid to the transfer station, or used motor oil and antifreeze are collected curbside on your regular recycling day.

There is no charge, but products are only accepted on specified days. Refer to their website at www.clark.wa.gov/hhw for current information.

 

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