Dispose of Your Scrap Car Safely
Closing a motorway is simple – just set fire to an adjacent scrapyard! That’s exactly what happened in April 2011 following an arson attack on a yard 10 miles north of London, and illustrates graphically why authorised treatment facilities (ATFs) for end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) are subject to strict standards. Consider the various flammable fluids and hazardous substances contained in a scrap car and you’ll see why ATFs need purpose-designed equipment for depollution.
The first step in the depollution process is the disconnection and removal of the vehicle battery. Not only does a car battery contain lead, a known health hazard, and sulphuric acid, but it may retain enough electrical charge to create a spark during dismantling and start a fire – highly undesirable at the best of times. In a facility that contains dangerous quantities of highly flammable substances, it’s unthinkable.
ATF operators must remove the residual amount of petrol or diesel fuel that remains in almost every ELV, as failing to do so creates a significant fire risk. Removing the fuel filler cap aids the process, which is best carried out by making one or more holes in the bottom of the fuel tank and removing the contents by suction. It is mandatory to use an air-powered tool to pierce the tank since an electrical spark would be catastrophic.
Engine oil does not present the same risk as petrol or diesel, but still requires suitable precautions. Gravity drainage is adequate for most ELVs, with a minimum drain period of 20 minutes specified in government guidelines. ATFs must also recover any oil contained in the oil filter, usually by crushing the filter body in a purpose-built machine that collects the contents. Secure storage is mandatory prior to disposal.
Brake and clutch fluids, while not always flammable, pose serious risks to health. Containing complex organic compounds, hydraulic fluids are known skin and eye irritants and are generally harmful if swallowed. Draining the brake system requires specialist equipment to pressurise the master cylinder and extract the fluids using suction at each wheel. ELV regulations require a minimum of 10 minutes for effective extraction.
Coolant and Screen Washer
At first glance, water-based fluids may not appear hazardous, but toxic additives make a difference. Coolant usually contains anti-freeze made from ethylene glycol, poisonous to humans, and screen-wash fluid often includes an alcohol-based detergent. Both need safe, professional disposal to avoid accidents. Draining the cooling system is usually simple since gravity will do the work, but screen-wash reservoirs are harder to reach and require special suction tubes.
It’s little wonder that an entire industry has grown around the needs of ATFs, producing equipment designed to drain, suck, pump and contain fluids that range from the highly dangerous to the merely unpleasant. Dozens of integrated depollution systems have reached the market, and machines like oil-filter crushers are now two-a-penny. Next time you top up your car’s fuel tank, spare a thought for the ATF operator who will one day have to drain it.