End of Life Vehicle Recycling

An ELV is any vehicle that has come to the end of its life and is, therefore, classed as waste. This can happen naturally, such as when a vehicle comes to the end of its life due to wear and tear. Usually, this type of ELV just needs to be depolluted and recycled. Some vehicles, however, can become ELVs prematurely, such as due to accidents, vandalism or fire damage. Often, these vehicles will be dismantled for parts. But how does the ELV recycling process work?

How Does ELV Recycling Work?

Scrapping a car is a thorough and extensive process. Materials (those that can be re-used, and those that need to be professionally disposed of) are separated using the latest recycling equipment following a number of steps:

1. Vehicle depollution

Following the ELV directive, vehicles weighing up to 3.5 tonnes must be disposed of in an environmentally-friendly way. This is done at Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs). At these facilities, potentially-unsafe materials - like oil, batteries and other hazardous parts - are extracted and processed.

Firstly, the battery will be removed and tested; it will be cleaned and recharged if suitable for resale. Secondly, all tyres are removed, then graded for resale, export or recycling. Next, a drainage system will be used to safely remove hazardous liquids. Finally, oil filters are removed and crushed; this helps to recover any additional oils.

2. CFC recovery

In line with EU regulations, airbags and air conditioning systems need to be removed properly. Air conditioning systems, for example, contain CFCs that are harmful to environment if not disposed of correctly.

3. Vehicle dismantling

After the vehicle has been depolluted, the car moves through a series of recycling machines.

Initially, the car is shredded - using metal shredders - and split into smaller pieces onto a conveyer belt.

This conveyor belt passes under a series of magnets, which pulls out the majority of material that can be re-used; specifically, steel, that makes up around 70% of a car. After this stage, vacuums pick up smaller parts - such as fabric and rubber. This, in turn, is then recycled.

Any heavy materials remaining are collected and separated. Some materials - such as copper and scrap aluminium - can be recycled fairly easily. Plastics, on the other hand need to go through a separate process; an important step, as 10% of modern cars use up to 20 different plastics.

Many parts will be removed for resale. For example, catalytic converters can be recovered and sent to specialists who can recover precious metal content from them.

4. Vehicle baling

After all resusable pars have been removed, the vehicle enters the baling process. Firstly, the engine is removed using an engine crusher. Following this, the radiator will be removed and recycled separately. Finally, after a final safety inspection, the vehicled will be baled using a car baling machine.

As this brief guide has shown, the process of recycling an ELV involves many steps, aiming to recovered as nuch recycling material as possible.

End of Life Vehicle Recycling