Chicago, IL (PressExposure) December 16, 2009 -- After nearly two decades, the U.S. Energy Department laboratory near Lemont will finish within a year building a recycling facility for "shredder residue" from Junk Car and trucks. The foam from seats will be remade into carpet padding. The plastic from crumpled hoses will be recycled into battery trays, steering column
Covers and headlight receptacles. Steel wires from the radial tires will be used to make new engine parts.
And Argonne is in negotiations with a company to build a similar facility for use in the private sector - what the lab hopes will be the first of many to adopt the technology. "We are very close," said Bassam Jody, an Argonne engineer and the project's leader for the past 17 years. "We hope the technology is in the field in the next 12 months."
When junk car for cash die, they are sold to junkyards to be stripped. Radios, wheel rims, radiators - anything that can be salvaged - are picked from the carcass. What's left is a "hulk," which is sold to a shredder and cut into pieces about the size of a coffee mug.
Most shredding businesses can obtain copper, aluminum and steel through magnets for resale. But they throw away the leftovers - plastics, fabrics, foam, rubber and whatever metal is in items, such as screws, bolts and clamps.
In 1991, under a federal mandate to cut down on the approximately 5 million tons of shredder residue that winds up in U.S. landfills each year, Argonne went to work.
In one of the many warehouses on Argonne's property, Jody and a team of four engineers have produced a pilot factory - essentially a system of conveyors, tumblers, magnets and tanks that separate the materials. The extracted metals can be resold. And the process doesn't just work for old vehicles. It also can be used for discarded household appliances, such as dishwashers, refrigerators and stoves.
"We don't want people to have a master's degree to operate the machinery," Spangenberger said. "We want to keep it simple."
There also is a benefit to taxpayers. Argonne plans to license the technology, assisting any clients in building factories themselves. The royalties would be reinvested back into Argonne.