The old breakers’ yards, going for a long time, are soon to disappear. The future is now in recycling components from these vehicles and all as a consequence of a new Directive approved by the European Union. The new law came into being in the Spanish State in December 2002. From February of this year the Royal Decree for the Direction General of Traffic obliges owners of vehicles to obtain a certificate of destruction in order to be legally free of contractual ownership of the vehicle. Here, in the Basque Country, the Sestao-based Car Recycling company is the first of its kind.
The new European Union-approved Directive on non-useable vehicles prohibits forthwith the leaving of vehicles without them having previously undergone special. It is prohibited to accumulate vehicles in any place and, before breaking them up for scrap metal, any contaminant parts, liquids and gases have to be removed.
The European body has proposed the goal of recycling 85 % of vehicle components and converting 5 % into energy by the year 2006. In most European scrap yards, cars are piled up in fields with no kind of care or control. With this new legislation the idea is to avoid contamination of the Earth and the environment but also to make savings on raw materials and energy.
In the Basque Autonomous Community some 50,000 vehicles are taken out of use annually. In Europe, a total of some 150 million every year. The company Car Recycling of Sestao has already started to operate with the new legislation. Last year they processed 2,000 vehicles; this year they propose to treat some 6,000 and, from 2005 on, they hope to deal with about 9,000 vehicles a year.
Car Recycling receives automobiles from car dealers, from local council and also from individual members of the public. The cranes move some 40.000 kilos of scrap metal a year which are fed into the breaker and subsequently end up in the steelworks. Car Recycling has sited its plant next door to the Sestao ACB (compact steelworks).
Decontaminate and classify
Once the vehicles arrive at the recycling plant, the technicians begin to decontaminate and classify them, before being sent to be broken up. They are directed to one of three zones, depending on which market they are destined for. Pieces of plastic and rubber wheels are, for the time being, taken to the rubbish tip but. In the future, they will be elements in an integrated recycling process. The vehicle is weighed and this is when the process begins. First the vehicle must be decontaminated, i.e. the wheels, plastic parts and the battery must be removed; the oil is collected and the anti-freeze and brake liquids and then the fuel; finally the gases – the air conditioning and airbag gases – are extracted. All these contaminants are stored and distributed to the authorised companies for the treatment of waste.
The vehicles are subsequently taken apart, part by part, and classified for re-use. All the engine parts, gear change components, and so on, are re-bored – a practice widely used in Central Europe – and these recycled parts used in new cars.
According to Santiago Perea, Director-General of Car Recycling, every part recovered has one an end-market or another. There is a local market of mechanical parts or exterior accessories for old or antique cars. These are local workshops, the breakers’ yards; another market takes the bodywork, large parts for re-manufacturers which reconstruct them to be sold as spare parts; a third market are the third world countries which consume both second-hand cars and spare parts, starter motors, alternators, etc. of nearly all models.
When the parts are taken out, the rest is broken up for scrap. The crane takes the cars, one by one, and introduces them into the crushing machine. The vehicle is crushed again and again until it forms a compact packet. Once the volume is small enough, it is placed alongside the rest of the crushed vehicles, and from here they are taken to the steelworks as furnace scrap.
Car Recycling will soon be opening centres, not only in Alava and Gipuzkoa (the other two provinces within the Basque Autonomous Community), but also in other places within the Spanish State and Portugal – a total of 40 plants will be opened.
In order to facilitate the recycling process, in several zones in Europa, car manufacturers have begun to make parts in a diffferent way. If, up to now, some 22 types of plastic have been used, the idea is to make to with just 2 or 3 in the production of vehicles. Changes in design are also being undertaken in order to facilitate taking the vehicle apart.
According to the new European Union legislation, by the year 2015, 95% of vehicle components will have to be recycled.