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Salling Autogenbrug will reduce the percentage of waste in Danish car scrap

In 2021, 97,959 cars were scrapped in Denmark. Up to 70% from these cars was reused or recycled, while around 30% ended up as waste, which ends up in either landfill or incineration.


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Siblings at Salling Autogenbrug – L-R, Lasse Haubo, Lise Korsgaard and Mads Haubo

This amounts to many thousands of tons of waste per year, and Salling Autogenbrug in Skive, Denmark, will solve that challenge with a new business model.

There are currently 170 approved car recyclers, workshops and dealerships in Denmark that can legally accept scrap cars. Workshops and dealerships send the cars to the auto recycling centers. These approved auto recycling companies are obliged to environmentally treat the scrap cars received in accordance with the regulations of the Danish Environmental Protection Agency; drain all kinds of liquids, and dismantle environmentally hazardous waste, such as electronics, filters, batteries, etc.

The business model in an auto recycling company is to buy end-of-life cars and traffic-injured cars from the insurance companies, and sell the usable spare parts so that other vehicles can drive for a longer time. When there are no more salable parts, the rest of the car is sold as scrap metal at a fixed price per kilo, which the auto recycler can get when the car is scrapped.

The recycling company, HJ Hansen, receives scrap every day from all over Denmark, including a number of auto recyclers. The scrap cars are sent through their shredder plant, which shreds the cars, after which mechanisms such as wind, magnetism, liquids and light sort the different forms of iron and metals. The vast majority of iron and metal from a car can be recycled and melted down into new raw materials. But 30% of the contents of the cars end up as waste. Waste which, once it has been through the shredder, cannot be used for anything other than incineration or ends up as landfill.

Salling Autogenbrug has now taken the challenge. Alongside with HJ Hansen and Aarhus University, Salling Autogenbrug will begin a pilot project where they will demonstrate on 100 tons of car scrap, that they can reduce the waste percentage to 10%, reduced by 20%, by extracting residual materials before the car is sent to scrap at HJ Hansen.

The 30% of the car that is not recycled are materials such as seat foam, plastic, seat belts, airbags, glass and so on. The project looks at whether the materials, found in isolation, can be sold to other industries and whether the cleanness of the scrap car can be reduced so that the price per kilo is higher.

“Right now, we get a price per kilo we send in for scrap. In other words, you are actually rewarded for leaving the residual materials on the car, because the more you remove, the less the car weighs, says Lise Korsgaard, who is one of the three siblings who runs Salling Autogenbrug.

She continued: “However, we can easily agree that it would be best if we took the whole car apart, so all fractions were sorted out, and the iron and metal we deliver for scrap is as pure as possible. But financially, it is not profitable right now. It takes time to disassemble the car, and if there is no recipient for the residual materials we peel out of the cars, yes, it actually costs money to get rid of them.

So, it is tricky, but we are convinced that it can succeed and that there is a good business at the end.”

Cracking the code is exactly what the collaboration between Salling Autogenbrug, HJ Hansen and Aarhus University is all about. They all share an interest in making this project a success.

“We are proud to be part of this exciting collaboration that Salling Autogenbrug has embarked on. Significantly reducing the percentage of waste at the car scrapyard before the cars go through the shredder makes fantastic sense. And even more exciting is that the waste from the cars gets new life in the form of recycling for bags, chairs and other consumer goods, says Kurt Søndergaard, segment manager at HJ Hansen, who has been part of the project since May 2022.

“If we jointly succeed in achieving the goal of a 360-degree recycling, then it will be a big gain for our climate and economy. The result should also be visible to be read directly on the bottom line. As we say at HJ Hansen, “we turn scrap metal into gold”, and we would like to help ensure that auto recyclers also spin gold by being sustainable,” says Kurt Søndergaard.

Several of the Global Sustainable Development goals must be used

Salling Autogenbrug works with Goal 12, “Responsible consumption and production”. But to reach the goal, other world goals must also be used. The hands that have to extract the residual materials could very well be on young people on the edge of the labor market or who are otherwise unable to settle into a regular education or in a regular workspace.

“We have tried cracking the code on how to solve the task of extracting residual materials from cars in a long time. Right now, the business model cannot support our skilled mechanics taking seat foam, glass and plastic out of the cars. Therefore, we have looked at other options, and a collaboration with STU Skivefjord seems to be a win-win,” says Lise Korsgaard.

STU Skivefjord is a specially designed education for young people who have various diagnoses that limit them from a traditional education or ordinary work. They come two days a week and peel off all the plastic, cut out airbags and cut seat belt webbing, remove glass, extract seat foam, and harvest wiring harnesses.

Lise Korsgaard said: “The young people come with shining eyes and take pride in helping to work on a common, green agenda. They can’t destroy the cars, and it doesn’t matter so much if they spend a little longer on the tasks they are given.”

A Green Vision

Salling Autogenbrug has a vision of being Denmark’s greenest auto recycler and has been nominated for several awards for their work.

Lise Korsgaard said: “If we succeed in demonstrating that there is good business in thinking green and reducing the waste in the scrap we send away from our company, then we hope and believe that the rest of the industry will follow and then we will to be able to see great societal results.”

She concluded: “If we don’t adapt now, we won’t be here in the future. Now we work with it of our own free will, but it won’t be long before legislation or pressure from customers, the EU and society in general dictates it, and then it can be difficult to adapt as quickly as possible.”

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Lasse Haubo and Lise Korsgaard, two of the owners of Salling Autogenbrug, receiving this year’s sustainability award at the recent Auto Awards 2022, held in Copenhagen, Denmark

To find out more about Salling Autogenbrug, please visit