Mar 2 -" Here Today, Gone Tomorrow": The Auto Industry Ratchets Up Recycling

EMagazine.com reported this week that the EU and Japanese Government are pushing for higher recycling rates of End of Life Vehicles (ELV) to 95%. Automakers in Europe and Japan have already had to meet stringent deadlines for the phase-out of toxics in their cars, like mercury and lead. So what is the U.S. doing to recycle ELVs?

ARGONNE, ILLINOIS—The spinning drum didn't look like much, but by sorting one form of scrap from another it was pointing the way to an important new frontier for recycling. Here on the grounds of the Argonne National Laboratories near Chicago, a pilot recycling plant is trying to convince cars to go the extra mile in donating their rusting carcasses to new products. The goal? The fully recycled automobile.


There are 210 million vehicles on the road in the U.S., with about 15 million added each year. Ever looked at the vehicles stacked on top of each other in a junkyard and wondered what happened to them? Now think about the end of life vehicles (ELV) from sea to shining sea—about 15 million of them every year—and you begin to understand the scope of our disposal problem.

Fortunately, the scrap metal from American cars and trucks is a valuable commodity, so 75 percent of the materials from the average vehicle get recycled. Ninety five percent of all cars go through the recycling process, and that produces an average of more than 14 million tons of scrap steel annually. It sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

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