A Look Behind the Scenes at a Modern
Scrapyard

Almost two million cars are scrapped in the UK every year.
Exactly what happens to them?

Last year, the Society of
Motor Manufacturers and Traders reported sales of just over 2.5 million in
2017. At the same time, they are reporting a year-on year increase of 600,000
cars on the UK’s roads. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out that
this must mean around 1.9 million cars are going out of circulation every year.
But just where are they going, and what’s happening to them?

If you’ve ever needed to
shop around for a scrap car quote, you probably picture a scrapyard as
being piled high with old cars slowly rotting away. A few yards like that still
exist, but in the main, today’s car scrapping business is quick, efficient,
clean and environmentally friendly. Let’s find out more.

Who can scrap a car?

Today’s car disposal
industry is highly regulated. Scrap yards just don’t operate out the back of
farms anymore. When it goes for scrap, a car has to be taken to an Authorised
Treatment Facility (ATF). This is a site that has gone through all the
necessary environmental and regulatory checks to confirm it can dispose of the
vehicle and their constituent parts safely and responsibly.

At the ATF, the vehicle is
stripped of all hazardous materials and of any parts that can be reused or
reconditioned before what’s left is crushed and recycled.

Removing the hazardous materials

The first step is called the
Vehicle Depollution Process. Here, the most hazardous components and materials
are removed, including the following:

  • Lead-acid
    battery
  • Tyres
  • LPG
    tank if fitted
  • Air
    bags
  • Seat
    belt tensioners
  • Fuel,
    oil, coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, etc.

The batteries and tyres are each sent to their own
reprocessing centres where they go through specialist procedures to be recycled
– these are what is known as closed loop processes – old batteries are used to
make new batteries and old tyres make new tyres.

ATFs are limited to the amount of tyres they can store at any
given time as the constitute such a serious fire hazard. If tyres catch fire,
they can burn for days, a fact that Essex residents living close to Rayleigh
will know all to well following the massive
blaze
at an
unlicensed tyre storage facility back in 2015 that caused chaos and disruption
in the area.

Next to go is the catalytic
converter. This comes into contact with a variety of unpleasant pollutants, but
it also contains precious materials such as platinum and rhodium. Recycling the
“cat” is another specialist job.

Getting rid of what’s left

With the pollutants safely
removed for reprocessing, what’s left of the car goes into a baler to be
crushed. All the metals, plastics and fibres are separated out and sent to
their own individual recycling centres.

Scrapping a car is a serious
job that needs to be done by professionals. Done correctly, it provides
valuable resources that go straight back into production. But in the hands of
unlicensed amateurs, it can result in dangerous cars and components being
reused, and environmental damage that can take decades to be put right.

The industry is
regulated for a reason, so if you need to scrap your old car, always use a
professional.