The Process of Car Recycling: What Happens to Your Old Car?

Understanding the process of car recycling can be quite illuminating. It’s more than just about getting rid of old vehicles.

The entire process represents a commitment to environmental sustainability, economic growth, and resource management.

In this article, we’ll dive into what happens to your old car when it goes through the recycling process in Australia.

Introduction to Car Recycling in Australia

Car recycling in Australia is a robust industry, processing hundreds of thousands of vehicles each year.

It involves a systematic approach to disassembling and reprocessing cars, ensuring that as much of the materials as possible are reused or recycled.

The Growing Importance of Car Recycling

Car recycling is not just an Australian concern, but a global one. The benefits it offers extend to environmental protection, economic growth, and resource conservation.

Environmental Impact

The recycling process minimises the need for landfill space as many components of a car can be recycled.

It also reduces the need to mine new materials, thereby reducing CO2 emissions and energy consumption.

Economic Benefits

Car recycling contributes significantly to Australia’s economy by creating jobs in the recycling industry and offering an affordable source of parts for consumers and businesses.

Resource Conservation

Almost 75% of a car’s material can be recycled and reused. This means less extraction of natural resources and a considerable reduction in energy consumption.

What Happens When You Sell Your Car for Recycling

Before your car becomes raw materials for new products, it goes through a thorough assessment and pick-up process. This process ensures that you get the best value for your vehicle.

Initial Assessment

Firstly, your car will be inspected for its overall condition, age, and market value. This assessment helps the recycling centre determine the worth of your vehicle.

Valuation and Payment

Based on the initial assessment, you will receive an offer. Once you accept the offer, the recycling centre will arrange payment, usually through direct deposit or cheque.

Car Pick-up

After finalising the deal, the recycling centre will arrange a pick-up. The car will then be transported to the recycling facility to start the recycling process.

The Car Recycling Process

Car recycling is a meticulous process divided into four main stages: depollution, dismantling, shredding, and material recovery.

Each stage is designed to maximize the recovery of recyclable materials and minimize environmental harm.


Depollution involves removing all hazardous materials from the car to prevent them from polluting the environment.

Fluid Removal

The first step in reducing pollution is draining all the fluids, including oil, coolant, and fuel. These fluids are either recycled or safely disposed of following strict environmental regulations.

Battery and Airbag Disposal

Next, the battery and airbags are removed as they contain hazardous materials. These items are safely disposed of or recycled according to Australian standards.


Once the car is depolluted, it’s time to dismantle it and sort the parts.

Removing Reusable Parts

Any reusable parts such as the engine, transmission, and lights are carefully removed. These parts are then cleaned, tested, and sold as used parts.

Component Sorting

The remaining non-reusable parts are sorted based on their material type for further recycling or disposal.


The car’s body is then shredded into small pieces. This process makes it easier to separate different materials for recycling.

Material Recovery

The shredded materials are then sent to a recovery facility where they are further sorted into ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

Metal Recycling

Ferrous metals, such as steel, are sent to steel mills for recycling, while non-ferrous metals, like aluminium and copper, are sent to other appropriate recycling facilities.

Non-Metal Recycling

Non-metal materials, such as glass and plastic, are also separated for recycling. They are sent to relevant facilities where they are processed into new products.

Residual Waste Management

Any residual waste that cannot be recycled is disposed of in a responsible and environmentally friendly manner, adhering to all Australian regulations.

Australian Regulations for Car Recycling

In Australia, the car recycling industry operates under strict regulations designed to protect the environment and ensure the responsible handling of hazardous materials.

National Policy on the Disposal of End-of-Life Vehicles

The National Policy on the Disposal of End-of-Life Vehicles sets out guidelines for the safe and responsible disposal of old vehicles.

It aims to maximise the recovery of useful materials and minimise the impact on the environment.

State and Territory Regulations

In addition to the national policy, each state and territory in Australia has its own regulations for vehicle disposal and recycling.

These may include specific rules for the storage, treatment, and disposal of waste from vehicles.

Choosing a Responsible Car Recycler in Australia

Choosing the right car recycler is critical to ensuring your car is recycled in an environmentally friendly manner. There are a few key factors to consider when making this choice.

Accreditations and Certifications

Reputable recyclers will have accreditations and certifications proving they adhere to industry standards and regulations.

These may include environmental management system certification (ISO 14001) or Australian standards for recycling.

Reputation and Reviews

Looking at online reviews and asking for recommendations can also be useful in choosing a reputable recycler. Companies with a history of satisfied customers are likely to provide high-quality service.

Environmental Policies

It’s important to choose a recycler that demonstrates a strong commitment to environmental responsibility.

This could include strategies for minimising waste, reducing emissions, and maximising material recovery.

Future of Car Recycling in Australia

The future of car recycling in Australia is bright, with innovations and government initiatives paving the way for even more efficient and sustainable practices.

Trends and Innovations

Emerging trends such as hybrid and electric vehicles present new opportunities and challenges for the recycling industry.

Innovative technologies are being developed to handle these new types of vehicles and their unique components.

Government Initiatives

The Australian government is taking active steps to support the car recycling industry.

This includes initiatives aimed at improving recycling rates, reducing landfill waste, and fostering innovation in recycling technologies.


In conclusion, car recycling is a complex process that offers significant benefits to the environment, economy, and society.

By understanding this process, we can all play a part in promoting sustainability and resource conservation in Australia.

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