Metal Recycling Process

The first thing that happens to your scrap car when it is processed at an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF) is that it is depolluted. Any salvageable parts are then removed and that leaves only the shell of the car, which is predominantly metal and plastic. 


To recycle the metal and plastic, the ATF staff have to prepare the end of life vehicle (ELV) for the recycling company (the ATF may also be a recycling company). This involves the process everyone likes to watch – the car being crushed. 


Recycling Process

ATFs are regulated by the Environment Agency (or local equivalent) and Local Authorities and so must follow strict rules for recycling. They are required to depollute your car and then can salvage materials before crushing it and preparing it for recycling. Although the ATFs may have different equipment, the process is usually quite similar for each ATF. 


Recycling centres are also regulated, but there is a greater amount of variation in the way they work, as the technology used in each centre varies so much. 

But the journey your ELV takes after being depolluted usually follows these steps:


ELV is Crushed

The end of life vehicle is usually crushed at the ATF once it has had any hazardous or salvageable materials removed. There are many different types of crusher, but they all do the same job – squash the car into a compact lump of flattened metal, plastic, fibres, and glass.


ELV is Transported to Recycling Centre

The crushed car is then transported to a recycling centre, where it can be shredded. The ATF may also be a recycling centre and may have the shredding and sorting machinery to handle this.


ELV is Fed into Shredder

The crushed car is fed into a heavy duty shredder, which breaks the car down into strips of metal and plastic that are around the same size as your hand. 


The Strips are Sorted

Sorting equipment is used to separate the different types of metals, plastics, fibres etc. The sorting process can vary, depending on the equipment available. Some common ways of sorting the different metals, plastics, glass and fibres into groups include: magnets, high pressure air flow, floatation, electrical currents, and manual sorting. 


Recycled Metals are used for Making New Products

The ferrous metals (iron and steel) are ready to reuse in the production of new products, including cars, electronic goods, and machinery. The non-ferrous metals, such as aluminium and copper, have to be separated and then can be baled and sold on for reuse as they are, or can be melted down and reused as a secondary material.


What is the recycled metal used for? Just about any type of metal product you can think of! Electronics, construction materials, transport (including cars), jewellery, tins, medical equipment…so many of the items we use in our day-to-day lives contain recycled metal. 


Recycling Cars Helps the Environment and the Economy


Using recycled metals has many environmental benefits:

Metals are rarely sent to land fill sites

Using recycled metals reduces the amount of energy we use to mine and process materials for new products

Using recycled metals also reduces the amount of pollution produced by the metal manufacturing industry.


But it has economic benefits too. The metal manufacturing industry is one of the largest sectors in the UK and we export  around 60% of our recycled metals (we use the rest). [1]

Similar Topics: Glass Recycling | Car RecyclingTyre Recycling


Make Sure your Scrap Car is Recycled Correctly

When it’s time to sell your end of life vehicle, make sure you do your homework and choose a registered ATF that will recycle your car correctly and legally. At Remove My Car, every ATF in our network is registered and has been carefully selected. ATFs can only benefit from being in the RMC family if they follow the rules and maintain our exceptionally high standards. So when you choose us, you can be 100% certain that any scrap metal will be recycled in accordance with Environment Agency guidelines.




See How Much Your Car Is Worth

Rated 4.9/5 from 12,720 reviews
Rated 4.9/5 from 12,720 reviews