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What is Vehicle Recycling?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated: May 23, 2024

Vehicle recycling is the practice of using old vehicles to manufacture new vehicles. When a vehicle has reached the end of its usefulness, it is often taken to a vehicle recycling yard. These locations used to be called junk yards. In order to save resources and cut costs in many areas, vehicle recycling has become a standard method of manufacturing. Vehicles are stripped of all of their components, and the different materials are sorted into containers to be recycled into new parts.

Metal has been recycled for automobile manufacturing since the dawn of automobile manufacturing. Manufacturers also now use vehicle recycling to gather plastic, foam and rubber to be used in new vehicles. Unlike the original car-crushing machines found in junk yards, vehicle recycling yards use vehicle shredders to dismantle an old automobile. The shredder chews an automobile into small bits and a sorting machine guides the different materials into separate bins. Comprised of huge steel drums equipped with strong steel teeth, the shredder makes quick work of turning a vehicle into dinner-plate sized pieces.

Many vehicles are recycled one part at a time. In some salvage yards, customers can strip used parts off of damaged and junked vehicles in order to save money repairing their own vehicles. Many times, a salvaged part can save a customer quite a bit of money compared to buying a replacement part from an auto parts supplier. When a vehicle has been parted out to the point that it has nothing else to be salvaged, it is placed in a crusher, flattened down and sold to a vehicle recycling plant and melted down into iron ingots.

Many groups are protesting the vehicle recycling industry. Some vehicles with a cult-like following have been all but destroyed by the vehicle recycling movement. The groups wish to save some of the older classic vehicles from the jaws of the crusher. Government initiatives, such as "clunker" laws, influence people to destroy and replace older model vehicles with newer and more efficient models. In doing so, many older collector cars have been destroyed to the point that no prime examples of the vehicles are left in existence. Still others are confined to museum status as sole survivors.

Recycling in the form of swap meets has been nearly replaced with online auctions and sales. The destruction of some vehicles has resulted in an industry fueled by replica parts manufacturers. In many cases, the replica manufacturers use the original tooling used by the original automaker to recreate the replica parts.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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