Vehicle Disposal: Driving Home the Facts

In the United States, over 10 million cars are taken off the road each year, contributing contaminants and particulates from their paint and coating to the 62% of compounds that produce environmental damage. Looking at the facts side by side makes the apparent urgency of the matter evident. We must dispose of our vehicles in a responsible manner in order to avoid further harming the environment.

Every single vehicle that goes into a landfill damages the environment in very specific ways. They do more than take up space and cause unsightly landscapes. The components in cars left to the elements can permanently damage land, causing it to be unsuitable for sustaining crops or housing drinking water. Brakes and tire particles raise the toxicity levels of soil as they breakdown and enter the ground. Even measures taken by the manufacturers of these parts are not enough to curb the total environmental impact their products are having. Car batteries are currently manufactured with mixtures of leads and acids. When batteries are turned back into the manufacturers, they are able to salvage 93% of the lead. However, the remaining 7% is still being fed to landfills.

Auto shredding is turning out to be an inadequate answer for disposing of vehicles as well. Once cars have been stripped of recyclable components and prepped for shredding, there is still a considerable amount of residue that is produced during the process. This residue contains heavy metals such as mercury and chrome in addition to other toxins used in the manufacturing process. Unfortunately, this byproduct of the process is being used as a component in industrial fuel-burning operations, leading to the release of harmful chemicals into the air.

Autos must be taken to Authorized Treatment Facilities (ATFs) in order for all of the dangerous products to be properly handled. These operations are equipped with the machinery to process all parts that can be fed back into the economy and dispose of harmful byproducts without selling them off to the highest bidder to increase profit margins. Many of these recycling centers are non-profit businesses that contribute a considerable amount of their earnings to local charities in their area. Drivers may also wish to explore the option of donating their car when it is still in reasonable condition. PBS and the BBC have programs that allow listeners to donate vehicles in place of making donations to support the networks. This method of recycling benefits the public by empowering companies that cultivate the arts and public education.


Bio: Michael is very fond of the environment, and does his best to help conserve it. Michael works at an automotive company that helps individuals dispose of older vehicles.