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Green Futures In Car Recycling

31/08/2016 16:01 | Updated 31 August 2016

With the possibility to recycle automobiles to nearly 100%, the growing "cleantech" sector is an area of the green economy that covers everything from renewable energy to smart grids and car sharing.

In 2014, Cleantech Group announced that it envisioned the cleantech sector being able to reach out to scrap yards in what is a "gasification process" where an industrial pressure cooker can turn wood and other material into gas while metal is recuperated for recycling.  The gas produced can be used to power steam turbines and can also generate electricity while the metal stripped out for recycling can repurpose approximately 95% of the automobile.

We have moved far beyond the once upon a time system of the wrecking yard with automobiles being crushed into neat sandwich-like packages. Where spare parts for cars can be repurposed through used car parts, today the entire automobile can also find its new home in other forms.  After the wheels, catalytic converter, fluids (ie. engine coolants, transmission fluid, oil, petrol, etc), and sodium azide used in air bags are removed from the vehicles, the process of preparing the rest of the car for recycling becomes quite simplified between the plastic, metal and glass.  The metal is then minced with some industrial shredders capable of destroying a car every 15 seconds.  The final step is where a giant magnet takes the steel out of mixture leaving non-ferrous metals and plastics to be separately recycled.

As there are assorted creative manners to recycle as some sculptors and furniture makers have evidenced in recent years, ultimately these recycled car parts can today go back into manufacturing a completely new automobile. Add to this the newer technologies which use soybeans to make seat cushions, cardboard shipping containers which are used to sound-proof some vehicles, plant fibre which is used in door cladding, and recycled plastic used to create the fabric in seat covers, we are now looking at a happy future of automobiles which are becoming more and more dependent upon contributing to and resulting from the recycling industry.

There have even been new initiatives earlier this year to encourage consumers to recycle their older vehicles with free "take-back" services where manufacturers are providing services to retrieve older vehicles.  Similarly, vehicle manufacturing plants are following in suit with less than 2% of their waste going to landfill as of 2014, a reduction of 90% from 2000:  "In the same period, energy and water usage have been cut by 48.1% and 43.6% respectively, while 'well to wheel' CO2 emissions are down by a significant 40.2% per vehicle produced."

The next step in green automobile energy is still awaiting its next leap as fuel cell and hybrid vehicles are just the tip of the iceberg in what will hopefully be a swift shift into alternative modes of vehicle propulsion.  For now the recycling of material shows a promise for eventually creating automobiles that are nearly 100% ecological in their manufacturing.

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