With global leaders battling to agree on targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and only around 25 years left before Earth reaches a critical tipping point, abandonment of fossil fuels and widespread adoption of electric vehicles are inevitable. And as petrol and diesel vehicles confront annihilation, an unexpectedly positive story of sustainability can be told.
A recent crushed-car competition at LynnMall Shopping Centre that invited people to guess the make and model of an obliterated vehicle that had been written off after a light crash attracted 11,000 entries. The broken-car collection company Zebra, which crushed the vehicle, first put it through a seven-step recycling programme that is applied to every car that arrives at the Zebra car-wrecking yard in Onehunga.
There is a gas extraction process to remove and reuse or recycle all liquids, including fuel, oil, brake fluids, battery acid and aircon gases. Parts are checked to ascertain the still-usable pieces of the vehicle. Usable parts are manually removed, a process that takes about 1.5 hours per vehicle. Loading of parts into containers is conducted for export, the broken car parts and scrap is recycled, fuel and good tyres are processed and used locally, and what remains is crushed and sent to the metal recycling plant.
The recycling of cars is a complicated and highly specialized process that does a world of good for the environment. Old cars are taken off our roads (thus lowering emissions and particulate pollution and enhancing road safety), while developing countries are sold good car parts at affordable prices.
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Zebra project manager Peter Gormley, who prepared the vehicle for the LynnMall Crushed Car Competition, says it's a "great joy" to find another life for used parts, and their uses change all the time: "Back when the United States was in the midst of a housing boom, we would export the foam from our written-off or unwarranted car seats to be used in the foam underlays of new houses being built there. It's really quite incredible how useful a car can be off-road!"
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