New Study Quantifies Benefits of Car Recycling

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The United Recyclers Group (URG) attempted to measure the impact of automobile recycling in a new study, focusing on the energy and resource savings of reusing and recycling parts such as steel fenders and wheels.

Prepared by the University of Colorado’s Environmental Engineering Department, the study’s findings were based on the estimation that 11 million vehicles are retired every year. The report also found:

Photo: Amanda Wills,

Recycling cars sends between 3 and 4.5 million tons of shredder residue to landfills every year. This material includes everything from plastic to glass to rubber. Photo: Amanda Wills,

  • Recycling just steel fenders saves more than 8 million tons of raw material (mostly iron and coal) that would be used to make new steel.
  • Aluminum wheel recycling would save 1.71 billion kilowatt hours of energy that would be needed to make new wheels from virgin aluminum.
  • Auto recycling extracts 24 million gallons of motor oil a year, which is reprocessed to keep it out of landfills.

All three materials are commonly removed during the auto scrapping process, with steel and aluminum sold off as scrap metal. But car recycling also landfills about 25 percent of the average car by weight, which includes other recyclable material such as glass, plastic and rubber.

The CU study did not take into account the impact of Cash for Clunkers, which had some auto recyclers receiving 10 times the supply of cars because of a government incentive to trade-in old cars for recycling.

“Thanks to our auto recycling industry, the brakes are being tapped on climate change,” said Michelle Alexander, URG executive director. “Energy consumption is being reduced; less material is being mined, refined and used; many forms of pollution are lowered; and the carbon footprint for the whole auto industry is being reduced.”

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Trey Granger
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  1. Pingback: New Study Quantifies Benefits of Car Recycling – | Goodwill Car Donation

  2. Hello Trey, I am a student at the University of Phoenix. I am taking an oral communication class and have to present a problem, cause, and solution. My problem is “Not Enough People Recycle”
    I am currently conducting research on the subject “Going Green.” I was just curious if you have any insight into what happens to the air-condition systems that are inside the cars to be recycled. What precautions are taken to insure that the Freon and other harmful pollutants don’t escape into the environment?
    I have recycled cars several times before and the only things the center would not take are batteries, gas tanks, and tires. I have never seen the entire process the cars go through. Seems to me, the centers crush the whole car, air-conditioning systems included, and run them through the shredder. I am really interested if these companies do anything to prevent the escape of Freon into the air. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble. Just as I was doing my research, that questions come to me.
    If you or anyone reading has any information pertaining to the process, I would greatly appreciate it.
    Thank you for reading: Michael Shawn Douglas

  3. Great article Tony,

    I personally work for an auto wrecker and the benefits of auto recycling are indeed countless and countless studies prove it. One of the most telling stats is “automobiles are the most recycled consumer product in the country with the equivalent of 13.5 million cars worth of steel being recycled each year” – (Steel Recycling Institute).

    The other impact is economical, we still import quite a bit of steel from China (world’s largest producer, we are 5th) and it further widens the trade deficit. Recycling steel is a highly effective way to help counter this imbalance and reduce our reliance on foreign suppliers.

    Learn more about junk car recyling at

  4. The recycling industry has known this for years, cars are the best recyclable product out there. Recycle your cars people, save the earth (and make some cash)!

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