Solid Waste & Recycling


International auto recycling conference report

Adam Gesing was an invited speaker at the International Auto Recycling Congress (IARC 2006) held in March in Amster...

Adam Gesing was an invited speaker at the International Auto Recycling Congress (IARC 2006) held in March in Amsterdam. He presented on end-of-life vehicles: “ELVs: How They Fit in the Global Material Recycling System and with Technologies Developed for Production or Recycling of Other Products and Materials.” Both the paper and presentation can be viewed at

The conference program can be found at

The following is a summary by Dr. Gesing of the conference.

IARC was interesting because of the cast of presenters and an audience that spanned the range from government regulators and insurers, car manufacturers and their associations, dismantlers and re-manufacturers, shredders and post-shred sorters and treaters.

Position of the auto manufacturers

The message from the auto manufacturers was as follows. On a lifecycle basis, fuel savings dominate all considerations and it does not really matter how you get rid off the still non-recycled residue, but preferably not back in the car. The preferred option is either waste-to-energy incineration or production of organic briquettes as reductants for steel production. SiCon is building such plants in Europe and SULT is building one for Japan.

Auto manufacturers would prefer no firm percentage recycled/recovered targets, but either a US-style free-market driven system or a simple requirement for the use of the best available recycling technology. This is not likely to happen as Japan, Korea and China are all on the way to implementing regulations vaguely related to the EU ELV directive. Japan was following a US example until a relatively illegal trash dumping scandal dominated by shredder residue galvanized public opinion in favour of tight government control regulations. However, in practice, the enforcement of these regulations encourages export of old vehicles from Japan rather than their recycling in Japan, with a concurrent loss of secondary raw materials from the Japanese economy. Japan has recycled/recovered targets similar to the European ones and has put the responsibility and the cost for recycling of three key items (fluorocarbons, airbags and shredder residue) on the shoulders of the car manufacturer. China has adopted for 2006 targets of 75 per cent material recycling and 80 per cent when including energy recovery. The Chinese targets are scheduled to catch up with the EU levels of 90 per cent material recycling and 95 per cent including energy recovery in 2017.

Auto manufacturers identified discrepancies in recycling regulations between different countries as a major obstacle and source of additional costs and waste. Even in EU there are now 25 different national implementations of the EU ELV directive, some incompatible with each other. The EU countries are supposed to use the ELV directive as a base in formulating their national regulations, but are free to add additional restrictions. In other parts of the world, each country is formulating its own recycling system, often with a hidden agenda of protection for its car industry or promotion of import of lower cost secondary raw materials.

This creates a regulatory jungle for global automotive manufacturers and the global automotive market, a situation that the auto manufacturers find intolerable.

Remanufacturing and reuse vs recycling

One presentation reported on a test that clearly demonstrated that the parts reuse business is much bigger and important to the economy than material recycling. Eighteen ELVs ranging in age from three to 22 years were dismantled, mostly for parts reuse and to a lesser extent for material recycling. The remaining hulks were shredded for material recycling. Average dismantling time was two hours. The cars were bought by the wrecker for prices ranging from $300 to $5,000 and averaging $3,000. On the average, the cars had over 30 parts judged suitable and marketable for remanufacturing and reuse. After a year, 20 parts per wreck were sold averaging $6,000, for a margin of $3,000 or a cool $1,500/hour of dismantling time. Not a bad business, and the wrecker is still left with 10 parts per car to sell in the future.

This is much better than $0.20/kg for steel and $1.00/kg of aluminum content of nonmagnetic metal concentrate that a shredder might get for metal scrap after paying $75-$100 per flattened hulk that typically weighs les than 1000 kg after being stripped of reusable parts. This gives ~ $380 scrap metal value and $280 gross margin. Hence the wrecker stands to make 10 times more per ELV than a shredder.

Dismantling for material recycling

Auto Recycling Netherlands (ARN) is the Dutch government agency mandated with meeting the regulated 85 per cent vehicle material recycling targets. They collect fees from new car buyers and used car importers to pay for the additional dismantling of the easily removed materials usually left on the hulk. They remove wheels with tires, plastic seat foam, rubber door gaskets and plastic bumper outer covers. They break and collect glass from the side windows and cut out the windshield laminate with a router. ARN buys these materials from the wrecker with money collected from the car buyers, and arranges further processing for eventual recycling.

The wrecker we visited during the tour stripped radiators, engines and transmissions from the hulks, which is more that what is required by ARN. Apparently, in Holland some shredders pay more for metal as pre-sorted components than as a flattened hulk and people hired for dismantling ARN materials, when they have time on their hands, dismantle more than required by ELV regulations to justify their employment. This situation arises because of the small scale of the de-pollution and dismantling facility. The one we visited prepared only 7500 ELVs per year for shipment to the shredder, or 2 ~ 4/hour; and this was one of the largest facilities in Holland.

In Germany there are ~1,300 dismantlers competing for the 800,000 ELVs in Germany, that is on average only 3 ELVs per dismantler/day. This is hardly enough to justify any mechanization of dismantling for material recovery. This is a reduction of over 300,000 ELVs over earlier years caused by export of used cars to Poland and further east. The shortage of ELVs in Europe is further aggravated by export of shredded metal to Asia.

Glass recycling

It is unlikely to be economic for the glass recovered from automobiles to be cleaned up to float glass standards and hence be suitable for closed loop recycling into automotive glass. The more likely markets for recycled auto glass are fibreglass and packaging glass, which can tolerate small impurities. In these markets the value of the cullet is limited to $30-$50/tonne. The final cleanup of recovered glass is achieved by optical particle sorting technology that gives <10 ppm of metal, <15 ppm pf ceramic and < 100 ppm of organic contamination.

Plastic recycling

There is some mechanical sorting used to extract plastics from shredder residue. Comet Traitements in Belgium is able to extract five per cent of polyolefin, 13 per cent of styrenic and 15 per cent of dense plastic concentrates from the shredder residue’s dense fraction. Polyolefins are the only fraction pelletized for recycling into plastic products. The others are processed into various grades of residue-derived fuel. This hardly justifies the separation efforts. Group Galloo takes the separation further in their first SR plastic sorting plant. In addition to polyolefins, they also separate the styrenics into ABS, HIPS/PS and filled polypropylene. They have contracts with Peugeot and Renault to supply these plastics for automotive uses.

Tire recycling

Tires no longer accumulate in the EU as the markets for the tire-derived fuel and shredded and crumb rubber have caught up with the supply of end-of-life tires. This is based not only on the value of recycled/reco
vered rubber, but also on a subsidy of up to 130/tonne paid to the manufacturers of
TDF and rubber shredders and granulators paid by tire manufacturers and importers.

REACH and impact on ELV recycling

The regulatory jungle that the recyclers need to navigate is getting even more complex with the introduction in the EU of Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH). REACH is designed to eliminate the use of hazardous materials. The evaluation includes the determination of risks, hazards and exposure limits for every chemical used. This is similar in some ways to the US Material Safety Data System, but EU, true to form, rather than harmonizing and adopting the US MSDS is developing a homegrown system. REACH registration will not be required for wastes, but will apply to recycled products. New registration will not be required if the recycled material is identical to the virgin one, but legislators have not yet considered the toxic chemicals that find their way back into consumer products through the recycling system. The chemicals of concern include the brominated fire retardants in plastics that are now banned from new products.

Information written for Solid Waste & Recycling magazine by Adam Gesing of Gesing Consultants in Windsor, Ontario. Contact Adam at 519-254-5015 or

Print this page

Related Posts

Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *