At Schnitzer, sustainability is at the core of what the company does every day. With approximately 100 auto and metal recycling facilities throughout the U.S., Western Canada, and Puerto Rico, Schnitzer diverts and reuses millions of tons of materials each year that might otherwise be destined for landfills. The ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal it processes is used to manufacture new metal-based products that reduce energy consumption, conserve natural resources, and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Based on ferrous scrap volumes in fiscal year 2019, Schnitzer avoided over 4 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. This is the equivalent of taking more than 900,000 cars off the road for an entire year. Also, Schnitzer’s efforts saved 10 million gigajoules of energy, enough to power 260,000 homes for a year, and over 7 million cubic meters of water, equivalent to almost 5,400 Olympic-size swimming pools. And, impressively, Schnitzer’s industry-leading recycling technologies helped avoid the use of over 10 million cubic meters of landfill space, equivalent to the amount of landfill used by almost 6 million U.S. residents annually.
Schnitzer supports a sustainable future with its circular cradle-to-cradle business model. The model keeps end-of-life metal products from ending up in landfills, giving these products a new, useful life and preventing additional virgin, raw materials from being mined to make new metal-based products. Indeed, Schnitzer’s business model is about creating sustainable value where others see obsolete products.
Through Schnitzer’s Pick-n-Pull brand, it operates an industry-leading chain of over 50 self-service used auto parts stores providing millions of recovered, affordably priced auto parts to retail and wholesale customers on an annual basis. Pick-n Pull stores recycle everything possible. When a vehicle first enters a Pick-n-Pull location, the company begins by removing and recycling fluids, such as lubricating oils, hydraulic fluids, gasoline and diesel fuels, coolants and washer fluids, and refrigerants. Pick-n-Pull’s recycling process also includes batteries and tires, which are resold or recycled depending on their condition. Next, the car is transferred to a sales yard, where customers can remove the parts needed as a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to purchasing from new part sources. Once most or all usable parts have been removed, the vehicle is crushed and sent to Schnitzer’s metal shredders, where the next phase of recycling begins.
Examples of Materials Recovered in Fiscal Year 2019 from End-of Life Vehicles:
- 1,700,000 gallons of fuel
- 9,700,000 pounds of batteries
- 12,000,000 pounds of tires
- 1,300,000 gallons of used oil
An essential part of the metals recycling process occurs between the collection of scrap and its transformation into new products. Metals must be sorted, broken down into appropriate sizes for melting, and compacted for delivery to customers. Schnitzer’s recycling yards and shredding facilities perform this fundamental role. They process these metals by shearing, torching, baling, and ultimately sending the material through shredders, which break down materials more efficiently than manual processing, yielding an end product that is denser and more suitable for use by steel mills. Beyond ferrous product, non-ferrous metals recovered include stainless steels, aluminum, copper, brass, and zinc, which are also recycled into new products.
Schnitzer uses enhanced non-ferrous separation capabilities to extract a greater volume of non-ferrous material to sell and further reduce metal material diverted to landfill. The separation technologies Schnitzer employs include magnets, eddy currents, air jets, and electronic and near-infrared sensors that sort and identify materials down to just a few millimeters in size.
Currently, Schnitzer is exploring a state-of-the-art gravity separation design that would sort materials even more finely, expanding landfill diversion capabilities even more.
The final stage of Schnitzer’s internal recycling process is the manufacturing of new steel products, which takes place at Cascade Steel Rolling Mills in McMinnville, Oregon (Cascade Steel). The processes involved in steelmaking have been used for generations. However, today, 21st century advancements in technology make this process safer, more streamlined, and more energy efficient than ever before. Schnitzer’s state-of-the-art electric arc furnace (EAF) and ladle refining furnace technologies use carbon-free electric power to melt scrap, operating with lower emissions than conventional basic oxygen furnaces.
Cascade Steel also finds sustainable uses for the byproducts of its steelmaking process, such as EAF dust and slag. When its steel products, including straight and coiled reinforcing bars, are shaped, cooled, and ready for sale, they are transported and used in sustainable ways to construct, among other things, new roads, bridges, houses, and commercial buildings— infrastructure that makes a positive impact on the communities where Schnitzer operates and beyond.