India And Automotive Recycling

However, India’s auto recycling or auto shredding ecosystem is still in its infancy. The sector is largely dominated by the unorganized sector. Areas like Mayapuri & Jama Masjid in Delhi, Kurla in Mumbai, Pudupet in Chennai, are the current graveyards for scrap vehicles.

The activities in these areas is largely unorganized and unregulated. This means that the recycling process is primarily carried out without sophisticated equipment& processes. The recovery and efficiency is also low. The processes not only pose health hazards, they also inherently have serious security loopholes.

Health hazards surrounding the markets have attracted attention in the past. There was a case of radiation caused due to Cobalt 60 pencils, a few years ago. Lead batteries too are harmful in content. Oils from vehicles drained off on roads, result in extremely unhygienic conditions around. The practice of gas cutting creates enormous amount of pollution, and makes it impossible to breathe – worsening the abysmal condition of air quality which exists in Delhi either ways.

In addition to the existing pipeline of old vehicles that stream into these markets, the government is drafting the much-needed End of Life policy for cars. With the average life of a car in India being 18 years, as against 9.73 years in Europe, vehicles run way beyond their expiry date. The effect is obvious: An old car produces as much as 10 times the emission of new cars, owning to obsolete technology, etc. The Delhi government, to begin with, has drafted a policy to scrap 37 lakh vehicles older than 15 years, roughly 37% of the cars registered in Delhi.

“There is no rule at present to guide the police or the government as to what is to be done with the vehicles after they are impounded. The new rules will create a mechanism to ensure proper disposal of old vehicles. This is going to be a first-of-its-kind policy in India,” commissioner (transport) Varsha Joshi had told Hindustan Times.

The question is now this: Does Delhi (or India) have adequate and right capacity to recycle these old cars?

India will need to borrow best practices followed in Europe & US to help raise the automobile recycling practices to an organized level.

In this process, the vehicle is first sent for de-pollution. De-pollution Process safely removes all hazardous waste – batteries, air bags, gas cylinders, mercury switches, tyres, air conditioning units, fluids and oils – this is done through sophisticated machinery. The vehicle is then sent for dismantling where good parts are removed for further resale/use. Remainder of the vehicle is then pressed/ sheared.The pressed vehicle is then sent to the shredder plant for further processing.

During shredding 3 components of the automobile are segregated:

• Ferrous – recycled into material
• Non-ferrous – recycled into material
• Shredded residue – this is sent to landfills or further recycled to the extent possible

The organized process is carried out through machines as against brute force used in unorganized markets. Near zero pollution & waste is produced as a result of these organized processes.

The result is a circular economy, where steel scrap produced is reused, and dependence on extraction of natural resources as well as on imports of steel scrap is reduced (India currently imports steel scrap to the tune of 8 million tonnes). Hence, the need of the hour for the Indian context is not only an efficient End-of-Life vehicle policy, but also organized vehicle recycling practices.

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