Despite the harm some cars do to the environment, the automobile is actually the most recycled product in the world.

GM’s Environmental Commitment

Product Life Cycle

At GM, when we develop new vehicles our designers and engineers work to find ways to improve the impact our products will have on the environment throughout their entire lifecycle. We look at everything from the materials that go into our vehicles and the manufacturing processes used to build them, to energy consumption on the road and the recyclability of our vehicles at the end of their useful life.

Vehicle Design

Components of the headliner in the 2010 Buick Lacrosse are made from recycled cardboard scrap salvaged from manufacturing operations at GM’s Marion Assembly plant in Marion, Indiana.

When designing new vehicles, we use recycled and bio-based materials from renewable resources whenever economically and technically possible. Engineers in our “Design for the Environment” group work with materials and components suppliers to  identify opportunities to continually increase the use of these materials. Recycled materials in our products come from a variety of origins – from things like old pop bottles, blue jeans and nylon carpet, to used tires and recycled vehicle bumpers. In fact, we’re even beginning to explore some opportunities to use recycled waste products from our own manufacturing facilities in parts for our new vehicles. This allows for an entire closed loop process where we can divert waste that may otherwise go to landfill butinstead is put to good use as part of a new product.

The 2010 Chevrolet Corvette uses renewable balsa wood, the fastest growing tree in the world, in its floor panel. Fibers from the kenaf plant, a quick growing, tall-stalky plant, are used to create a component of the headliner in the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox.

We’re also beginning to make use of some renewable natural fibers in vehicle parts to make our cars and trucks more sustainable. Right now we are using balsa wood in the floor panel of the Chevrolet Corvette, and kenaf fibers – as a component in the headliner of some vehicles.

Here is a link to GM Dismantling Manuals.

http://www.gm.com/corporate/responsibility/environment/recycling/veh_end_life/manuals_list.jsp  (GM Dismantling Manual)

Automotive Recycling Association (ARA)

Since 1943, the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) is an international trade association which has represented an industry dedicated to the efficient removal and reuse of automotive parts, and the safe disposal of inoperable motor vehicles.

ARA services approximately 1,000 member companies through direct membership and over 2,000 other companies through our affiliated chapters. Suppliers of equipment and services to this industry complete ARA’s membership. ARA is the only trade association serving the automotive recycling industry in 12 countries internationally.

ARA aims to further the automotive recycling industry through various services and programs to increase public awareness of the industry’s role in conserving the future through automotive recycling and to foster awareness of the industry’s value as a high quality, low cost alternative for the automotive consumer. ARA encourages aggressive environmental management programs to assist member facilities in maintaining proper management techniques for fluid and solid waste materials generated from the disposal of motor vehicles.

Facts About the North American Automotive Recycling Industry.

  • Total annual revenue is estimated to be $22 billion.
  • In 1997, auto recyclers acquired 4.7 million vehicles for the purpose of recycling.*
  • Recycling vehicles provides enough steel to produce almost 13 million new vehicles.*
  • Saves an estimated 85 million barrels of oil a year, that would have been used in the manufacturing of new or replacement parts.
  • Automotive recyclers spent nearly $50 million on environmental compliance in 1997.*
  • The majority of automotive recycling businesses used a computerized inventory system.*
  • Automotive recyclers provide wholesale and retail customers quality parts that sell for up to 50% less than the comparable new parts.
  • Automotive recycling businesses employ some 103,108 people at more than 8,267 businesses around the country.
  • An estimated 86% of automotive recycling companies is full-service and employs 10 or fewer people.*
  • Total annual payroll is estimated to be $3.3 Billion.
  • The majority of automotive recyclers can often locate parts faster than new part dealers because the facilities are connected by telephone, satellite and/or computerized communications systems to recyclers across the globe.*
  • Automotive recycling decreases insurance rates by purchasing inoperative vehicles from insurance companies, thus allowing for recovery of financial losses. These vehicles came primarily from individual owners and salvage auctions
  • Automotive recycling keeps highways and roads clear of abandoned and disabled vehicles by providing a place to deposit these vehicles.

Sources: *Most recent ARA statistical data regarding the automotive recycling industry. Data compiled from a 1997 survey by the private consulting firm, Axiom Research Company and Automotive Recycling: Your Cars Afterlife (2-13-2006).

Automotive recycling serves a vital role in preserving natural resources and reducing the demand for scarce landfill space. For example, each year approximately 95 percent of vehicles retired from use are processed for recycling.  The recycling of these vehicles saves an estimated 85 million barrels of oil that would have been used in the manufacturing of new or replacement parts.  Additional energy and resource conservation is realized by recycling rebuildable “core” parts to the automotive parts rebuilding industry.

In addition to conserving natural resources, automotive recycling plays an important role in reducing air and water pollution, and solid waste generation. Automotive recyclers must abide by stringent local and national regulations on dealing with waste generated by salvaged automobiles. Many individual automotive recyclers have also instituted their own unique programs to further reduce the potential effects of harmful materials to their businesses and communities.

The closest auto recycler to us in South Dakota that is also a registered member of the ARA is located in Colorado.

Colorado Auto Recyclers
Jolane Hochstetler, Executive Director
(303) 457-2119
(303) 451-7567 Fax


YouTube video tour of a recycling company.