Recycling Fluids - Recycling Explained

What’s in those plastic containers at the Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF)? Yes, you guessed right – it is the fluids from recycled cars. All the oils, detergents, anti-freeze etc., are removed from your car during the depollution process and are then stored in separate plastic containers. These containers are then collected by specialist companies.


But don’t worry, they don’t end up in landfill sites – they are taken to processing centres where they can be treated and re-used in a variety of ways. Find out more here about Vehicle Plastic Recycling


What Fluids are Removed? 


Scrap cars contain a lot of fluids that need to be removed in the depollution process, including:

Coolant, Engine Oil, Fuel, Brake Fluid, Washer Fluid. 


These fluids need to be stored separately and securely as they can contaminate the soil and water supply very easily. Just a small amount of engine oil can pollute large amounts of water (according to US site,, the oil from a single oil change is enough to pollute one million gallons of fresh water  - that’s 4.5 million litres!). Motor oils contain toxic materials and are harmful to humans and wildlife, and long-term exposure has been linked to skin cancer. 


Many ATFs do not handle the recycling of waste fluids on site. Instead, they are stored and sent to specialist recycling centres where they can be processed. 


How are Scrap Car Fluids Recycled? 


There are many different ways in which the fluids from scrap cars can be recycled, including:

Distillation, Filtration, Ion Exchange, Reverse Osmosis, Catalytic hydrogenation


Different recycling centres use different techniques, largely due to the cost of some of the equipment involved. For example catalytic hydrogenation requires expensive equipment, whereas treating oil with chemicals and further distillation is a lower cost alternative. 

Some of these techniques only apply to certain types of waste fluid, but they all have a similar effect – they separate the oil from any contaminants and other materials, such as water and gas oil. The oil can then be treated and used as a material in new oil products.

For example, with anti-freeze, reverse osmosis can be used to separate the ethylene glycol from the oil and any contaminants. The ethylene glycol can then be treated with additives and used as new anti-freeze. It is cheaper to create anti-freeze from recycled ethylene glycol and it is better for the environment too (as natural gases are needed to create ethylene glycol).

Act Responsibly when you Sell Your Scrap Car


The authorities are cracking down on illegal scrap merchants, but unregistered scrap operators still exist, and there’s no guarantee that they will depollute your car correctly. So why take the risk? There are registered ATFs that will make sure your car is depolluted legally, and they will pay you a top price for it too. We know, because we have a national network of ATFs who depollute scrap cars every day.


With RMC, you can sell your car instantly, or you can enter it into an auction where you can get an even better price. However you sell it, you can be sure that its fluids will be recycled properly and reused.

See How Much Your Car Is Worth

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