Description of source / product:
We all know where scrap cars come from. They are the car that we once loved and that took our family on memorable day-trips. They were our pride and joy that we spent many hours cleaning and polishing. But in time the age just like everything else, they wear out until such a time that they are no longer viable for us to maintain. In other circumstances the cars have failed the MOT test, a certificate of road worthiness and other scrap cars come from insurance ‘write-offs’.
Many scrap cars are sent to car breakers where the car parts are recycled and reused. In the UK alone, many hundred of scrap cars are recycled every day and their car parts shipped to countries such as India and Africa, where they are used to repair the cars of people on lower-income than the UK average.
Once all reusable car parts have been removed from the scrap car body the ‘shell’ of the car is disposed of for recycling. The scrap metal grade that a scrap car forms part of is known as ‘Light Iron’ or ‘No. 6’, a trade term that is used by scrap metal merchants to categorise the low-grade scrap metal product.
How is the scrap processed?
Scrap cars processing methods have been featured in many films from James Bond’s ‘Goldfinger’ to the spoof ‘Top Secret’ in 1984 to the modern day classic Pulp Fiction. They are often seen as the sinister way to dispose of the person that met an untimely demise at the hands of villains.
This movie depiction is used for a very good reason, because the processing of scrap cars involves squashing, crushing or fragmentising the car into unrecognisable shapes from blocks to small pieces of fragmentised scrap.
Depending upon the size of the scrap car merchant the scrap car is processed in different ways. The smaller scrap yards will use their grab or grapple to beat the scrap car shell flat; this is done to reduce the volume of the car to ensure that more weight is achieved during transportation. Flat scrap cars are often placed on the top of wagons of other loose light iron to prevent smaller pieces of scrap metal from ‘blowing out’ of the wagon as it travels to one of the larger metal processing facilities.
Scrap yards that are slightly larger might have a car press or a car baler, which do as the name suggest and either flatten the scrap car, bale it or in some circumstances create a ‘car log’. The objective of this process is to maximise the pay-load of the transport to the ultimate scrap car processing equipment; the fragmentiser or ‘frag’.
The yards that are the ‘top of the food chain’ operate metal fragmentisers that can range in price from approximately £2Million to well in excess of £15Million depending on their speed and their processing volumes. The frag turns the scrap car, and most other low scrap metal grades into the ultimate scrap metal recyclate, named aptly after its processor as ‘Frag Grade’. Read more about the fragmentiser process here.
What is the final recyclate from this grade?
Because of the high temperatures that are reached inside the fragmentiser, the paint that you once lovingly maintained on your car is all but burned away. The frag grade metal is normally leaves the fragmentiser as small bright pieces of metal ranging in size from the size of a grape to the size of a grapefruit. This is the ultimate scrap metal grade that can be achieved from a scrap car.
Where is the main market for the recyclate?
Many of the steel mills that once made UK industry great have long since poured their last billet and now most of this heavy industry takes place in countries like China and India. Naturally this is now where most of the frag ends up, after being shipped from British ports in ships that are often laden will tens of thousands of tonnes of scrap metal.
Surprisingly, scrap metal frag forms one of the UKs largest exports, by weight, and contributes a significant volume towards new product manufacture in these high growth countries.
What is the recyclate used to manufacture.
Many items are manufactured from recycled steel including scrap cars. It’s very likely that in time the car that you loved will return to the UK as a new car of product used in the construction industry.