One million cars are scrapped every year. What actually happens at a scrap yard?

Time 1:37 pm, February 2, 2015

Scrap_My_Car_SYJJWith 2.47 million new car sales recorded in the United Kingdom in 2014 – the highest for a decade – it means many old cars will have ended up at the scrap heap. In fact, it is estimated that over one million cars are crushed each year. But what exactly happens to a car when it is scrapped and how is it broken up? Here Sell Your Jamjar, the first online car buying service to be established in the UK in 1999, explains the scrap car process from start to finish with some interesting facts.

When you scrap your car, it has to be legally scrapped by what is called an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF). Here the vehicle has all hazardous materials removed and parts that can be reused salvaged before it is crushed and recycled.

The hazardous materials are removed in the first phase of the Vehicle Depollution Process. The lead-acid battery is detached first, as car batteries contain materials that can be hazardous to the environment.

Next, the car’s tyres are taken off and recycled at a specialist recycling centre although only a certain amount can be stored on site at any one time. This is because large numbers of tyres can burn for days at very high temperatures if they catch fire.

Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) gas tanks are hazardous and they are removed with air bags to follow – these have the potential to explode because of the chemicals they contain in them – as are seat belt pre-tensioners, which are also dislodged at this point.

All of the car’s fuel, oils – including the oil filter – coolants, anti-freeze, and any other liquids that are deemed hazardous will be disposed of next,  as any of these can contaminate the soil and pollute the water supply if not removed correctly.

If your car has a catalytic converter, this will be extracted because during the vehicle’s time on the road it will have come into contact with many pollutants. Any switches that contain mercury chemicals will also be removed as well.

After being depolluted, the car is then safe to be crushed, with all its metals, plastics and fibres separated and recycled.

You can easily scrap your car by finding a reputable company on the internet or you can donate it to charity where the scrap value can be used for good causes.

It is worth noting it is illegal – in England and Wales – for anybody to pay you cash for your scrap car under the Scrap Metal Dealer Act 2013. It has to be a bank transfer or via PayPal.

Before you scrap your car, you will need to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that you are scrapping the car. You will, otherwise, be liable for any tax or traffic offences. After your vehicle has been crushed, the DVLA will send you a Certificate of Destruction, which is usually posted out within seven days of you taking it to an ATF.

Colin Channon's avatar

Colin is a former editor of Car Dealer. He left the magazine in August 2015.

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