Cash For Clunkers Cars Stacking Up, Can't Be Recycled Quickly Enough

October 26, 2009


The Cash For Clunkers, or CARS, program was rather successful in collecting old, junky cars--but it's having a hard time getting rid of them. And that is translating into a lot longer--and potentially dirtier--process than had originally been anticipated.

Recycling the clunkers cars is one of the core tenets of the program, which was founded at least partially on the pollution reduction from getting so many old, inefficient cars off the streets. Its stimulus effect was certainly welcome by the industry and public alike, and now that the sales portion of the program is over, all that's left is the cleanup, but the recyclers are struggling to keep that process as green as possible.

Unfortunately, the sheer popularity of the CARS program means that many of the facilities tasked with recycling the cars are loaded well beyond capacity. Some yards have received as many as 6,000 cars to be recycled, stacking them in huge piles as the processing backlog builds up.

Perhaps worst of all, especially for used car owners, is that many of the cars coming out of the clunkers program are simply heading straight to the crusher to then be sent on to material recycling plants, without any opportunity to reclaim the still-functional parts that might still have years of service left in them.

With about 700,000 trade-ins to get rid of, the recycling effort is mammoth. Many facilities being tasked with the recycling process are at 200-300 percent of their capacity. Nevertheless, the DOT says that most of the cars don't need to be crushed under the regulations until early next year or later, so there may yet be time for the system to catch up.


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