The recycled auto parts industry plays a crucial and necessary role in the ecological disposal of motor vehicles which are no longer operable. Automobile salvage dealers are professional automotive parts recyclers, who collectively earn $22 billion in annual sales. Auto salvage dealers have been around since the beginning of motorized travel, and over the years have developed a process for disassembling salvaged automobiles to reclaim usable components and parts. For over seventy-five years automotive recyclers have been on the forefront of environmental conservation, reducing the demand for landfill space, preserving natural resources, and protecting the environment from contamination. Approximately 95% of vehicles which have been retired from use are recycled, which saves about 85,000,000 barrels of oil that otherwise would have gone into manufacturing new or replacement parts. Further resource and energy conservation is achieved by recycling rebuilt core parts, such as engine blocks and transmissions, to the automotive parts industry.
Besides conserving natural resources, the automotive recycling industry plays a key role in reducing water and air pollution, as well as solid waste generation. Auto recyclers must fulfill stringent national and local regulations on handling the waste generated by salvaging used automotive body parts. Gasoline, motor oil, and diesel fuels contain petroleum hydrocarbons which are quite toxic to aquatic life, as well as being carcinogenic. They can be carried by rainwater into surface waters and contaminate local groundwater. Heavy metals such as lead, chromium, cadmium, copper, zinc, arsenic, mercury, and aluminum are also toxic for aquatic life, and can bio-accumulate in fish. Acids from batteries, degreasers, and solvents can contaminate soil chemistry as well as water, creating toxic conditions for humans as well as animals. The operations at automotive salvage yards are well-controlled to reduce the risk of releasing contaminants into the environment. Besides the governmental regulations, many individual auto recyclers have instituted their own management programs to reduce the potentially harmful effects of automobile recycling byproducts even further.
The automotive recycling industry has evolved into a sophisticated, technology-driven business which is constantly changing in order to keep abreast of innovations in automobile manufacturing techniques. In a typical auto salvaging operation, inoperative vehicles are brought into the facility and hazardous and recyclable fluids are drained from them. Barely used auto parts are dismantled from the vehicle, then cleaned and tested before they are resold. Auto recyclers are an invaluable source for economical and hard-to-find used vehicle replacement parts. Today's auto recyclers use the computer and internet to direct their inventory assessment, and also to locate parts from other recyclers across the country. This technology permits recyclers to maximize their own inventories, and at the same time provide quick, efficient service for their used auto parts customers. Instead of merely crushing abandoned, wrecked, and disabled motor vehicles, modern auto recycling facilities maximize a vehicle's true market value by salvaging for resale, separating the residual scrap components into their separate categories, all the while providing environmental and economic benefits to the local community.