The 300 partners with which ARN collaborates on sustainable car recycling have dismantled five million cars since 1995, resulting in 4.5 billion kilos of repurposed waste. Plenty of innovation is needed for the future to recycle today’s cars just as effectively, says the CEO of ARN, Ingrid Niessing.
Over the past 25 years, ARN has established a stable network of more than 300 chain partners, of which around 230 are car dismantling companies. Until the year 2011, dismantling and shredder companies together reused close to 96.2 percent of end-of-life vehicles. This is an excellent achievement, but not enough according to the European Union, which announced that, starting 1 January 2015, at least 95 percent of cars must be recycled in all EU member countries.
Unravelling the remainders
In the run-up to that regulation, ARN opened a separation factory in Tiel in 2011. The final remainders of the car waste from the shredder companies are unravelled at this factory, i.e. sieved, shaken and blown. The methods are simple enough in themselves, a bit like a child playing in a sandbox. But these techniques helped ARN achieve a record level of car recycling in 2016. No less than 98.7 percent of a car is now recycled.
More importantly, the twenty raw materials that this process yields can be used to make new products.
But there is yet another factor that has contributed to achieving this uniquely high recycling percent of cars in the Netherlands since 2010 and that is the possibility to recover energy from remaining waste at waste power plants with an R1 status. This status means that the waste plant works efficiently, which is why the car waste that is processed here is included in the recycling percentage.
Batteries and plastics
New cars are made of a wide range of materials. That is why ARN focuses on attaining the necessary knowledge to recycle new cars just as effectively. On the occasion of having reached the milestone of five million recycled cars, ARN’s CEO Ingrid Niessing was recently a guest on a BNR Nieuwsradio programme.
Recycling can have unexpected effects. Niessing explained in the programme about ARN’s contributions to projects in which energy can be stored in batteries from dismantled hybrid cars. “Of course, you can also dismantle and recycle those batteries, but this is very specialised work.” There are only a few companies in the Netherlands that dismantle batteries, states the CEO.
And even if metal is used less often in cars, ARN wants to continue to recycle at the current high level. Consequently, ARN is in contact with universities and innovative companies to generate new ideas and innovations. This keeps ARN’s knowledge up-to-date and will make it possible to almost fully reuse cars in the future.
Working together with car manufacturers
CEO Ingrid Niessing explained that ARN is also engaged in dialogue with car manufacturers regarding their choice of materials. “They have already started using materials that are more eco-friendly,” says Niessing. But much more attention will have to be paid to the recyclability of the materials chosen, she believes. “We are working hard to get manufacturers to think in these terms. We want to know what they’re working on, so we can establish how this will affect our recycling process. Working on a circular economy takes teamwork.”
Decrease in numbers of cars
The question is whether or not the number of cars to be dismantled will remain at the same level. According to Statistics Netherlands, between 2001 and 2011, the number of exported cars increased from 123,000 per year to 274,000 per year. None of those cars will be dismantled in the Netherlands.
On the other hand, there has been an increase in the import of used cars. The Netherlands imported no fewer than 200,000 cars from abroad in 2017.
An important development is that new generations of car drivers would prefer to use share cars than to buy a car. Since the average car has a life span of 18 years, the effect of this trend will not be noticeable until two decades from now. “The question is whether there will be just as many cars in the Netherlands in ten years’ time,” says CEO Niessing. “We may need fewer cars if we’re sharing cars more often. It depends entirely on how we deal with mobility in the future.”
Since the professionalisation of car recycling by ARN nearly 25 years ago, the dynamics in the sector have been tremendous. After all, ARN and its chain partners want to come up with smart recycling solutions that keep up with the ever-progressing technology in the automobile sector. It’s great to see how ARN and its partners are succeeding at this. What may not be possible today, may very well be reality tomorrow.