A well developed infrastructure exists for the reuse and recycling of automotive parts and materials. At the end of a vehicle’s useful life many parts are removed and sold for reuse and fluids are recovered for recycling or proper disposal. What remains is shredded, along with other metal bearing scrap such as home appliances, demolition debris and process equipment, and the metals are separated out and recycled. The remainder of the vehicle materials is call shredder residue which ends up in the landfill. As energy and natural resources becomes more treasured, increased effort has been afforded to find ways to reduce energy consumption and minimize the use of our limited resources. Many of the materials found in shredder residue could be recovered and help offset the use of energy and material consumption.
For example, the energy content of the plastics and rubbers currently landfilled with the shredder residue is equivalent to 16 million barrels of oil per year. However, in the United States, the recovered materials, primarily polymers, cannot be recycled due to current regulatory barriers which preclude the re-introduction into commerce of certain materials because of residual contamination with substances of concern (SOCs) such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The source of the PCBs is not well understood. Old transformers, capacitors, white goods and ballasts from lighting fixtures are likely contributing factors. The project was designed to evaluate whether vehicles of varying age and manufacturing origin contribute to the PCB content in shredder residue. Additionally, the project was designed to determine if there are any trends in material composition of the shredder residue from varied age and manufacturing groups. This information would aid in future material recovery facility strategy and design.
The test utilized a newly installed shredder plant to shred four categories of automobiles. The categories were defined by vehicle age and the manufacturing company and location. Each category of vehicles was processed individually through the shredder plant and the resulting shredder residue was analyzed for its materials composition and presence of PCBs and leachable metals. The results show that shredder residue from all vehicle categories tested are not significant contributors of PCBs and leachable metals. It was evident that leachable cadmium levels have decreased in newer vehicles. The composition of the shredder residue from each of the four categories is similar to the others. In addition, these compositions are approximately equal to the composition of typical shredder residues, not limited to automotive materials.