Facts & Figures on Car Salvage & Recycling

The Automotive Recycling Industry

Europe, the US and Japan are the world’s largest exporters of ferrous scrap, holding a market share of over 33 percent. These countries are also the biggest recyclers of cars and account for over 70% of the world’s overall recycling of cars. In reality, the 16th largest industry in the United States is automotive recycling, estimated to be a $25 billion per year industry.

At more than 9,000 locations across the world, automotive recycling companies hire over 140,000 people. Automotive recyclers are small companies, with ten or fewer individuals employing 86 percent. In the U.S., the median number of jobs is four.

The only workers of one in five firms are founders (19 percent). Based on analysis from Axion (1997). The industry collects and reuses or recycles an approximate sum per year:

  • Motor oil ~24 million gallons
  • Gasoline and diesel fuel ~8 million gallons
  • Engine coolant of 8 million gallons
  • 5 million gallons of fluid from the window washer
  • 96% of all Lead Acid batteries

Recycling Rates of Cars

Every year, 27 million vehicles around the world hit the end of their useful lives, some of which are the average 11-year-old cars driven to their last mile, while others are current year models involved in accidents. The car is today the world’s most recycled consumer commodity. (Source) It comes second only to lead-acid batteries in the United States.

Nearly 8 million cars are recycled annually in Europe, while the figure in the US is close to 12 million. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, nationally, about 26 cars are recycled every minute.

Every year, approximately 95% of vehicles withdrawn from use are processed for recycling in the US.

According to data from 2010, this is more than the recycling rates for paper (72 percent), steel cans (67 percent), aluminum cans (50 percent), and glass (33 percent).

How much of a vehicle is recycled?

About 25 million tons of heterogeneous materials are recycled from old vehicles around the world. Around 86 percent of the material content of a vehicle is recycled, reused, or used for energy recovery, with the highest target material for recovery being metal. In North America, vehicles usually consist of approximately 20 percent recycled post-consumer content by weight.

Ferrous Metal/Steel

More than 14 million tons of recycled steel extracted from junk vehicles are made last year. Car recycling provides enough steel to manufacture nearly 13 million new vehicles, thus providing work for 46,000 people. For steel and iron in vehicles, the overall recycling rate is close to 100 percent.

The standard passenger car, by weight, consists of about 60% steel and iron. The steel used to make your car’s body, including doors, hood, trunk and quarter panels, includes a recycled content of at least 25 percent. Scrap processors shred it and sell the valuable ferrous material to steel mills until all the fluids have been drained and reusable components removed from a vehicle.

When steel mills use scrap steel instead of iron ore in new product production, energy use is decreased by 75%, raw material use by 90%, air pollution by 86%, water use by 40%, water pollution by 76%, mining waste by 97%, and consumer waste by 105%.

When you imagine recycling a single ton, 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone, the value of recycling steel is illustrated. Almost 40 percent of all recycled steel (the most recycled metal) in America is produced by automotive recyclers.

A sufficient amount of steel from old cars was recycled last year to generate 48 million steel utility poles, a third of the U.S. utility poles. Automotive recycling produces about 40 percent of ferrous metal for the scrap manufacturing industry throughout North America. Around 37% of all ferrous metal is supplied to blast furnaces and smelters in the US by the automotive recycling industry.

Environmental Benefits

End-of-life automotive recycling saves an estimated 85 million barrels of oil that would have been used in the manufacture of new or replacement components, resulting in a major reduction in air and water emissions. Established by the automotive industry, End of Life Vehicle Solutions Company works in this endeavor with over 9,000 recyclers and has collected nearly 4 million switches to date, keeping 9,000 lbs of mercury out of the ecosystem.

CO2 emissions are minimized in the production sector by the use of recycled metals. By intensifying the amount of heat retained by the atmosphere, CO2 is considered to lead to global warming as a GHG. Given the approximately 12,6 million vehicles that the automotive recycling industry recycles every year, GHG emissions are reduced by more than 30 million metric tonnes per year. Recycling four tyres lower CO2, which is equal to 18 gallons of fuel, by around 323 pounds.

Financial Benefits

Automotive recyclers supply quality car parts to retail and wholesale clients that cost 20 percent to 80 percent less than comparable new auto parts.


Roughly 90 percent of a vehicle’s aluminum is reused and recycled. While the aluminum retrieved from an old car is less than 10 percent of the weight of the vehicle, it accounts for almost 50 percent of the scrap value of the vehicle.

Motor Oil/Fluids

It is of the utmost importance to properly handle used oil. One million gallons of fresh water may be polluted by used oil from one oil shift, a year’s supply for 50 individuals. The amount of dangerous fluids and oils safely recovered by auto recyclers is equivalent to 8 Exxon Valdez disasters per year!

Car Batteries

The recycling of approximately 98-99 percent of car batteries is possible.

Car Tires

  • Car tyre recycling is feasible and it is possible to use the material to manufacture sandals and roadways.
  • Every year, one billion tyres hit the end of their useful lives.
  • Every year in the developed world, one passenger tyre per person is discarded.
  • There are currently an estimated 4 billion end-of-life tyres worldwide in landfills and stockpiles.
  • The end-of-life tyre recovery rate for Europe, the US and Japan is now more than 85 percent.
  • In the end-use market, approximately 9 in 10 of the 246 million scrap tyres discarded annually in the US are consumed. For glass bottles, aluminium cans and plastic bottles, the reuse rate for tyres exceeds the costs.
  • Around 110 million tyres are recycled annually by U.S. scrap rubber producers or one tyre for every three individuals in the U.S.


Approximately 20% of a vehicle is not recyclable and is referred to as ‘car shredder residue (ASR),’ which includes bits of ferrous and non-ferrous metal, gravel, glass, cloth, paper, wood, rubber, and plastic. Around 5 million tons of ASR were disposed of in landfills every year. In Europe, 75 percent of a car is recycled, making 25 percent of the car with the ASR items. According to projections, recycling facilities in Europe will soon be able to recycle, by weight, 95 percent of each vehicle.

Every year, an estimated 5 million tons of ASR are diverted to landfills; automotive plastics account for about 0.5 percent of a typical landfill by weight.