Vehicle disposal: The environmental benefits of car scrappage

24th September 2020
Lanna Cooper

Governed by strict regulations designed to safeguard our planet, car scrappage unlocks a host of environmental benefits. The automotive industry is leading the way in recycling innovation on a global scale. Here, Scrap Car Comparison offer expert insight into the environmental benefits of car scrappage, and the three-step recycling process that’s followed when a vehicle is scrapped.

The environmental benefits of car scrappage

Deciding to scrap a vehicle can create several environmental benefits:

  • UK car scrappage centres must adhere to environmental regulations that include the safe recycling and parts and vehicle materials.
  • Recycled metals reduce the need to mine for new metals and minerals.
  • When a car is scrapped, parts can be recycled for another car. Many parts, such as mirrors and tyres, can be put to use in a new vehicle.
  • The amount of new steel created for new cars can be reduced. Steel production requires coal to be burned, which emits greenhouse gases.

Environmental regulations

The strict regulations surrounding vehicle scrappage are in place today to effectively safeguard the environment.

Before the regulations came into effect, car scrapping was far more harmful to the environment, since toxic fluids inside vehicles were not effectively drained before they were compacted. Not only did this cause the ground in and around the scrap yards to become  potentially harmful to human health, the toxic fluid could also lead to significant water systems contamination.

The toxicity of scrapping cars is now limited thanks to strict environmental regulations. Chemicals, such as mercury, are now disposed of and recycled using the correct method. The use of appropriate protective equipment at scrappage centres is now at the forefront, enabling the correct and safe handling of hazardous materials to prevent any leakage of hazardous materials.

Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs)

When a vehicle is scrapped, no matter the condition or reason for its scrappage, it will be taken to an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF) to be recycled.

Current international targets for the scrap industry, as set by the End of Life Vehicles Directive for members of the scrap industry, require ATFs to recycle 95% of the vehicle.

Three-step car recycling process

Whether the vehicle has been in an accident, failed its MOT, or reached the end of its lifespan, a scrapped car or van will be taken through the three steps of a recycling process: depollution, dismantlement and destruction.

Step 1: Depollution

Depollution is the start of the process of safely removing all hazardous materials and components in accordance with Environmental Agency Guidelines.

This process is carried out to maximise the efficiency of the recycling process to follow, and to minimise potential damage that the materials could cause to the environment or as a result of human contact.

During depollution, the materials removed include those that can be salvaged for future use, those that can be recycled into new items, and those that need to be disposed of.

Examples of materials that will be removed during this stage include:

  • Coolant
  • Antifreeze
  • Brake fluid
  • Catalytic converter
  • Fuel
  • Battery
  • Air conditioning gas

Step 2: Dismantlement

This process takes place following depollution and involves the full dismantlement of the vehicle.

The three components that will be dismantled in this process are:

  • The engine
  • The undercarriage
  • The main body of the car

Once dismantlement has taken place for each of the above components, any recycling opportunities will be fully explored and implemented. For example, the scrap car industry recycles 98-99% of car batteries. There are several items, such as tyres, glass, catalytic converters and fabric upholstery among others, which can be recycled and reused in several ways.

Discover these in: What does my scrap car become?

Once the metal is separated from the rest of the internal components, the final step of the recycling process can take place.

Step 3: Destruction

The final car recycling process involves three steps to ensure the vehicle’s metal is recycled effectively and is safe and ready for future uses. The shell and chassis of the scrap vehicle is crushed and sent to a metal mill where it will go through the following:

Magnetic separation

The scrap car is processed through a large magnet, which will remove any magnetic metal, such as steel.


Detinning removes the thin layer of tin that prevents vehicles from rusting.

The scrap metal is placed in hot caustic soda which dissolves the tin coating, which is then removed from the solution. Any leftover tin can be reclaimed through several techniques, including evaporation and electrolysis.


The steel is placed into a furnace and melted down. Once melted, the steel is poured into casters and rolled into flat sheets ready to be reused.

No matter which vehicle is scrapped, the scrappage industry holds the safeguarding of the environment and the practice of recycling as many elements of a scrap vehicle as possible of the highest importance.

Like Scrap Car Comparison’s approach to vehicle recycling, the three-step recycling process ensures the safest, most effective and advantageous approach for our environment.

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