There has been no production of new vehicles in Switzerland for years. The new cars are brought into the country by official importers or via direct import. About 300,000 new passenger cars, 25,000 new light and 4,000 new heavy commercial vehicles are sold every year. The official importers are organized in the association of auto-schweiz.
Today, new vehicles must be recoverable to a minimum of 95 percent in Europe and Switzerland. The design and production of such a complex consumer good is a big challenge, as is its recycling. Vehicles are nowadays considered rolling stocks of raw materials.
The metal scraps are valuable secondary raw materials from which the steelworks and smelters produce source material for new products. The two steel mills in Switzerland, Stahl Gerlafingen and Swiss Steel, together produce about 1.2 million tons of steel, mainly from scrap iron.
For decades, vehicles have consisted of 75 percent metal. However, the steel content has decreased while aluminum has increased and today represents 5 to 10 percent of the vehicle’s weight.
Almost a hundred percent of the scrap iron and aluminum can be reintroduced in the materials loop. Compared to primary production, the scrapping of 100,000 vehicles a year allows for the following savings:
- 100,000 tons of iron ore
- 30,000 tons of bauxite
- 300,000 MWh of electricity
- 65,000 tons of CO2
Great hammer mills (shredders) with up to 2 meters in diameter and a drive power of 800 to 3,000 hp hack vehicle bodies into fist-size pieces within a few seconds. The proportion of end-of-life vehicles to the total input is only 20 to 30 percent. The shredder plants do not only process vehicles, but also other metal-bearing wastes. These include so-called white goods (washing machines, cooking stoves), production waste and other scrap metals that need to be crushed before being remelted.
The shredder plant recovers iron and steel, so-called shredder scrap, as well as non-ferrous metals such as aluminum and copper, and sell these precious secondary raw materials to steel mills and foundries.
At the end of the process, some waste remains in the form of non-metallic residues: shredder heavy fraction (rubber, plastics) and shredder light fraction, also called (A)SR / (automotive) shredder residue. According to the regulation on the transport of waste, ASR is a hazardous waste with the code 19 10 03. The 80,000 to 100,000 tons of scrapped cars treated in the Swiss shredder plants produce some 20,000 tons of ASR a year. This corresponds to about 20 percent of the vehicles’ weight. The total annual amount of shredder residue comes to about 50,000 to 60,000 tons. SR and ASR consists mainly of plastics (60 %), glass/sand (15 %), textiles/leather/wood (10 %), paint dust/rust (10 %) and metals (5 %).
After the car has been used extensively (on average for 16 years) and is now no longer economically viable, it is treated by specialized car recyclers, i. e. it is drained of all fluids and its usable parts are dismantled. Tires, batteries, oils and liquids are recycled. Parts which can still be used are examined and put up for sale as spare parts. Interested parties can purchase them directly from the recyclers. Most vehicle recycler hold large stocks and sell parts over the Internet.
In Switzerland, about 100,000 end-of-life vehicles and accident-damaged cars are recycled every year. The pre-treatment is necessary for the subsequent treatment in the shredder plant. The cannibalized car bodies are pressed flat to make transport more efficient. The formerly widely known scrap bundles no longer exist.
New cars are assembled from over 10,000 parts and consist of many different materials in various compositions. The choice of material depends on different criteria like suitability of technical, physical and chemical properties, weight, cost, and design.
Often, the car represents the second highest item of expenditure of a household after housing costs. For many, the purchase and possession of a vehicle is associated with emotions. The car is maintained and serviced. This causes waste which, nowadays, is recovered for the most part. Up to 80 percent of the total energy used for the material supply, production, operation and disposal of a vehicle is accounted for by the operating phase (fuel, maintenance, spare parts).
The Swiss car industry comprises 5,200 garages, of which 4,000 are organized in the Swiss professional automobile union (AGVS) with around 37,500 employees. The vehicle trade presents over 800,000 of changes in ownership of new and used vehicles. In the year 2014, the entire Swiss automotive industry generated a turnover of about 90 billion Swiss francs.