When people think of junk cars, the image of an ugly, polluted junkyard often comes right to mind. Fortunately, this image is obsolete — the auto industry now sees old cars as material for recycling. In fact, according to a new report by Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), approximately 86 percent of U.S. vehicles’ components are reused or recycled after the life cycle is complete, according to CNN Money.

Cars don’t have to be junked before their parts can be recycled. Old motor oil, used filters, tires and other such consumable parts often end up in a recycling center to be turned into other useful items. Since these components are now recognized as being valuable, it goes without saying that automotive centers and other companies suddenly think that recycling old or used cars is a great idea. Here are a few auto parts that are commonly renewed or recycled into other items:

Motor Oil and Filters

More than 40 percent of pollution from used oil comes from improperly dumping old oil, according to Market Watc

h. Almost all service centers accept used oil for recycling, so the problem is mostly a matter of education. Recycling companies like Universal Lubricants are working to inform people of the options for properly disposing old oil.

The Recycling company doesn’t just tell people how to handle motor oil. Its business is recycling the oil and filters into new components. The oil itself is re-refined into clean, new oil while the filters are turned into recycled paper and steel. The oil inside the filters is extracted from the paper during this process to be re-refined.


Most old tires are now used by various industries instead of being allowed to sit in dangerous piles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2003, it amounted to 233 million tires out of 290 million. Of these, 44.7 percent were used as fuel, and the rest were used for things like ground rubber-based products, rubber containing asphalt, stamped products and other such items. It’s clear that several industries have found uses for old tires. Only about 9.3 percent of used tires now end up in landfills or scrap heaps.

Other Materials

Polyurethane foam can be pulled from automobile debris for reuse. Soiled foam can be cleaned, so there’s no need to worry about whether it has gotten oily or sooty from being in the car. Currently, most foam is sent to landfills after steel is recovered from shredded automobiles, but a process developed by Argonne National Laboratory could recover about 100,000 tons of the material yearly, the U.S. Government reported.

The automotive industry’s many recycling programs show that there’s no need to feel guilty the next time you need to retire a car. Most of its components will be reused in an environmentally friendly way, and soon, it will be common for everything in a car to be able to be recycled efficiently.

This article was written by Jason Mcbride. Jason supports green initiatives and helps organize recycling programs in his native Denver.