Most people have visited or at least driven by a junkyard full of overgrown weeds and old, rusting cars. If you have, it’s not hard to imagine how hard they are on the environment. Junk yards tend to buy and then store thousands of old vehicles on large areas of land for decades. Tires are removed from vehicles and stacked in mountains without protection from the elements, and it’s careless storage practices like these that make junkyards environmental disaster zones. Possibly the most dangerous practice of junkyards is their penchant not to remove fluids and other wastes from junked cars before they turn them out to rot. This can result in the contamination of nearby groundwater, which ends up containing the following:
- Lead from batteries and battery acid
- Refrigerant chemicals like Freon and antifreeze
- Asbestos from brake shoes and clutches
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from foam rubber, carpets and plastics
- Aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, zinc, and lead
- Transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid
- Gasoline, diesel fuel, and motor oil
While there are still far too many ill-managed or abandoned junkyards in the United States, there are other, more environmentally friendly options for retiring your old car when you are ready to move on to bigger and better things. If you can’t find a dealership interested in your vehicle as a trade-in, consider bringing it to a salvage yard, a scrap yard, a recycling plant, or donating it to a worthy cause instead of taking it to a junkyard.
Salvage yards are much more selective about the cars and trucks they accumulate. After all, they’re in it for the money. Vehicles that can’t be repaired and sold are totally dismantled (fluids included) at salvage yards and all useable parts are sold. Salvage yards are kind of like organ donor programs, but for cars. Who doesn’t like to think that parts of their lovable old car are giving life to other peoples’ vehicles? If you choose to bring your car to a salvage yard, your old Jeep gets to live on after all.
The demand for automobile scrap is ever increasing as more and more car manufacturers are deciding to manufacture their new cars with recycled automobile steel. Scrap yards strip and burn old cars to reduce them to their bare (steel) bones and then sell the steel back to manufacturers. Many times vehicles sent to salvage yards are then sent to scrap yards, and it usually isn’t too hard to find a yard that will both salvage and scrap your vehicle.
Perhaps your “greenest” option for ridding yourself of that old Jeep is to take it to a recycling plant. Though few know of their existence (they’ve been around since 1943), the automotive recycling industry is as one of the twenty largest recycling industries in the United States. They take everything from used oil and tires to entire vehicles and will frequently come and pick your car up right from your driveway.
Coming from a family of mechanics, I’m a huge fan of donating old cars to organizations that help young girls and boys learn to cultivate mechanical skills. Provided your car isn’t completely totaled, you can always donate it the Boys and Girls Club or another similar organization. The best way to ensure your car is actually making it to a reputable organization is to avoid middlemen in the exchange. Plus, if you choose to donate your car, you will be eligible for a tax credit. Make your wallet even happier and go even “greener” at this point by purchasing an electric vehicle. Electric vehicle owners are also eligible for a $7500 tax credit from the government.