From Can To Car, To Can Again at Ford

Ford, GM, Chrysler work with USCAR to push past 85% recyclable vehicle mark

Ask someone on the street what consumer item they think is recycled more than any other in the U.S. and they're likely to guess "newspapers" or "soda bottles." Most people probably wouldn't say "cars" -- but that is, in fact, the answer.

According to the company, roughly 85% of each Ford vehicle is recyclable. The Dearborn, Mich.-based auto manufacturer is working with rivals Chrysler and GM through the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) and its Vehicle Recycling Partnership to push for a 100% recyclable content vehicle.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 95%of all end-of-life vehicles in the U.S. are processed for recycling. That's compared to 52% of all paper and 31% of all plastic soft drink bottles.

The EPA calls recycling one of the best environmental success stories of the late 20th century, reporting that the practice diverted more than 72 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 2003, up from 34 million tons in 1990 -- doubling in just 10 years.

The agency cites several key benefits of recycling, including:

  • Protects and expands U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace
  • Reduces the need for landfilling and incineration
  • Saves energy and prevents pollution caused by the extraction and processing of virgin materials and the manufacture of products using virgin materials
  • Decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change
  • Conserves natural resources such as timber, water and minerals
  • Helps sustain the environment for future generations

Re-use is a big part of the recycling story. Auto recyclers supply more than a third of all ferrous scrap to the U.S. scrap processing industry. When manufacturers use scrap iron and steel instead of virgin ore, they reduce air and water pollution by more than half during the manufacturing process.

For example, steel food cans contain up to 30% recycled steel, while household appliances and car bodies are made with about 25% recycled steel.

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