Today more than ever, the automotive industry is extremely concerned about sustainable development. Protecting the environment has become a real priority for everyone: not only in terms of emissions from finished products, but also in terms of recycling and the choice of basic materials.

An important stage in the life cycle of a car, which often goes unnoticed, is in fact the reuse of metals, a process which is now essential not only to maintain positive annual sustainability budgets, but also to reduce costs. Let's find out why.

Who recycles and how

The world's leading carmakers have implemented metal recycling strategies in their production lines over the last ten years. The process begins at the production stage, where recyclable materials are selected to bring new cars to life.

Today, more than ever, almost all the components used to make a car are separated and recovered at the end of their life. These parts, mainly made up of steel, aluminium, copper and other materials, are given a second life through a series of complex operations, including shredding, magnetic separation and chemical treatments.

At the end of all these operations, the metals recovered in their basic form are reintegrated into the production chains, reducing dependence on virgin natural resources and minimising waste and costs.

La production d'une nouvelle voiture BMW

The production of a new car

Among the many manufacturers recycling metals today are, of course, the big names in the automotive industry, such as Audi AG, but they are not the only ones. In fact, the annual report on the automotive recycling market published by the statistics firm Straits Reserach also includes Toyota Motor Corporation, Volkswagen AG and the BMW Group.

Audi, in particular, through the Audi Environmental Foundation, its in-house foundation for research and development in the field of materials reuse, has joined forces with the Freiberg University of Mining and Technology in Germany to find new ways of recovering raw materials through recycling.

Audi's aim is to give new life to metals such as indium, gallium and tin, which are both finite and essential, and are key elements in modern technologies such as optical fibres, photovoltaic panels and semiconductors in cable harnesses. Every electronic device is made up of parts containing these elements, so recovering them from end-of-life cars could be a solution.

Le recyclage des métaux présents dans le câblage par Audi

Recycling metals in Audi's wiring harnesses

To cite other examples, in recent years Toyota in Japan has also set up its own in-house centre dedicated exclusively to this delicate process, in cooperation with Toyota Metal. This is the Automobile Recycle Technical Centre, a genuine research and development centre for the reuse of materials, particularly metals.

L'usine de recyclage des métaux de Toyota

L'usine de recyclage des métaux de Toyota

L'usine de recyclage des métaux de Toyota

L'usine de recyclage des métaux de Toyota

In Germany, the BMW Group has been working for over 10 years to make metal production and recycling ecologically sustainable at its Landshut foundry.

Today, the plant (which you can see on the cover) specialises in the treatment of end-of-life metals, in particular cast iron. In this large plant, materials of different compositions are never mixed and, after reconditioning, aluminium scrap can be melted down to produce the same components again.

Fewer materials, fewer emissions

The process of reusing metals not only reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill, but also cuts greenhouse gas emissions linked to the production of new materials. In the not-too-distant future, we may see more and more of the world's car manufacturers recycling cars produced decades ago, perhaps in exchange for customers buying new models.

Add to this the recycling of batteries, and the whole sector should become much more environmentally and economically sustainable than it is today.

Gallery: More and more car manufacturers are recycling metals, here's who and how