The EPA believes that recycling is "one of the best environmental successes of the late 20th Century". And while 52 percent of paper and 31 percent of plastic bottles are recycled, 95 percent of cars are recycled at the end of their lifespan. Most of what's recycled is ferrous scrap, which is used at the steel industry, saving iron ore and the cost of extracting it. 30 percent of the steel in food cans is recycled, and car bodies have 25 percent of recycled steel.
- Audi's Vorsprung durch Technik means a lot of recycling
- How much? 3.65 billion tons of scrap in 25 years thanks to car boom
- Fords in Germany: First a can, then a car and finally a can again
Roughly 85 percent of each Ford Motor Company vehicle is recyclable. What's more, Ford is working with Chrysler and GM through the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) and its Vehicle Recycling Partnership to raise that number to as close to 100 percent as possible.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 95 percent of all end-of-life vehicles in the U.S. are processed for recycling. That's compared to 52 percent of all paper and 31 percent of all plastic soft drink bottles.
"The U.S. automakers have long taken a proactive stance in vehicle recycling," says Don Walkowicz, executive director, USCAR. "They continue to work side by side with government and private industry to optimally recycle all vehicles, regardless of age, content or origin."
The EPA calls recycling one of the best environmental success stories of the late 20th century, reporting that the practice diverted more than 72 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 2003, up from 34 million tons in 1990 -- doubling in just 10 years.
The agency cites several key benefits of recycling, including:
- Protects and expands U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace
- Reduces the need for landfilling and incineration
- Saves energy and prevents pollution caused by the extraction and processing of virgin materials and the manufacture of products using virgin materials
- Decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change
- Conserves natural resources such as timber, water and minerals
- Helps sustain the environment for future generations
Re-use is a big part of the recycling story. Auto recyclers supply more than a third of all ferrous scrap to the U.S. scrap processing industry. When manufacturers use scrap iron and steel instead of virgin ore, they reduce air and water pollution by more than half during the manufacturing process.
For example, steel food cans contain up to 30 percent recycled steel, while household appliances and car bodies are made with about 25 percent recycled steel.
"Ford has been implementing recycled content on our vehicles for several years," says Ford's Dan Adsit, manager, Recycling Planning. "In addition to using significant amounts of recycled metals, we include nonmetallic recycled content in vehicle parts such as battery trays, splash shields, engine fan shrouds and carpet."