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Sustainability / Environment

Waste Diversion & Resource Recovery to Maximize Value

In 2011 and again in 2013, Schnitzer was awarded "Scrap Company of the Year" by the American Metal Market. This industry recognition highlights the strength and resiliency of our business model as well as the strong customer relationships built from our reputation for quality and service. Schnitzer remains committed to leadership in environmental stewardship, operational excellence and customer satisfaction.

Beyond Efficiency, this is Efficacy

In 2009, Schnitzer served as a major player in the $3 billion United States "Cash for Clunkers" program with our facilities accepting hundreds of eligible fuel inefficient vehicles for recycling from dealers selling motorists more fuel-efficient ones. Although the program ended in August of 2009 after recycling more than 700,000 and depleting all federal funds, Schnitzer's Pick-n-Pull auto recycling facilities continue to remove gas-guzzling, air-polluting and smog-emitting vehicles from roads across North America. The benefits from recycling and resource recovery benefit the people we employ, the communities we serve and the environment.

Every year, an estimated 27 million vehicles around the world reach the end of their useful life and are subsequently recovered and recycled. In the United States, approximately 13 million end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) are discarded and recycled in some form, resulting in the recovery of millions of tons of metal. Schnitzer recycles more than 350,000 of these vehicles annually, which yields about 900 million pounds of predominantly ferrous metal.

Recycling ELVs is not just about recovering their metal bodies and frames – many other materials are recovered from ELVs for reuse, refurbishing, remanufacturing, refining and/or recycling. For example, the same 350,000 vehicles allow us to reuse/recycle approximately:

  • 9.6 million pounds of catalytic converters
  • 1.2 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuels
  • 800,000 gallons of motor oils
  • 7.5 million pounds of car batteries
  • 60,000 mercury-containing switches and assemblies
  • 42,000 pounds of CFC refrigerants
  • 838,000 tires and wheels
  • 272,000 gallons of antifreeze
  • 125 million pounds of vehicle motors, transmissions, components and other parts
  • 799,000 cubic feet, or 231,000 pounds, of automotive floor mats and scrap carpets

From car batteries to gasoline, motors to transmissions, even the leather and foam cushioning of car seats and interiors, Schnitzer is committed to minimizing our environmental footprint by maximizing resource recovery and waste diversion.

Repurposing Car Leather

Synergistic, creative and innovative – each of these characteristics have contributed to our success and also define our commitment to operating with sustainable business practices.

In 2012, Schnitzer's Pick-n-Pull stores in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area entered into a partnership with R3DNA, a sustainable design company, to recover leather and foam from the interior seats and cushions of end-of-life vehicles. Traditionally, the majority of fabrics and foams from vehicle interiors have been unrecovered and ultimately disposed in landfills.

Since partnering with R3DNA, we have diverted almost 1,600 pounds of leather and foam material for repurposing into leather apparel, messenger bags, laptop sleeves, tablet sleeves and other apparel accessories. Additionally, while a portion of the foam material extracted during the leather recovery process goes unused, this material is never wasted. Excess foam material is further recycled and re-manufactured for use in foam-rubber carpet padding. As our partnership with R3DNA grows, we estimate a potential to recover and repurpose more than 1.4 million pounds of leather per year, thus diverting this material from landfill disposal.

Watch a video about Pick-n-Pull's partnership with R3DNA

Recovering Mercury, like any other Metal

Schnitzer received the Steel Manufacturers Association's "Recycler of the Year" award for leadership in mercury switch recycling in 2008. Since then, our commitment to removing mercury from the supply chain has remained just as strong.

End-of-life vehicles hold value greater than just their scrap metal or core weight. ELVs contain hundreds of reusable parts including components and materials requiring specialty recycling. Mercury switches are one of these typically unvalued / unwanted components. Experienced auto recyclers can easily locate these switches for careful removal and responsible recycling before an ELV moves on for further processing. This task in the auto recycling lifecycle ensures that pollutants and hazardous materials are not left in the scrap metal supply chain or released into the environment.

Schnitzer adheres to a rigorous and effective program for recovery and recycling of mercury-containing devices. We are a national leader in vehicle mercury switch / sensor recovery in both the U.S. and Canada, recycling more than 90,000 mercury-containing switches, assemblies and sensors on an annual basis.

Since 2008, our participation in the national End-of-Life-Vehicle Solutions (ELVS) program in the U.S., and Switch Out program in Canada, has grown by 34%. In the U.S., Schnitzer has collected more than 11% of the total 5.4 million switches collected through the program since its inception. In 2012, California program participants recovered and recycled 112,000 switches, with Schnitzer's California facilities contributing to 42% of those switches. Since 2006, Schnitzer has recycled more than 654,000 vehicle mercury-containing switches, keeping more than 1,400 pounds of mercury out of the environment.

"Metal can be recycled over and over again. For us to process it properly, it must arrive at our facility free of contaminants. That's why we appreciate Schnitzer's excellent record of reliability when it comes to removing mercury switches."

– Tom Kniola, Melt Shop Superintendent, Steel Manufacturing Business

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