Volvo’s melt­ing mo­ments

Re­cy­cling reaches a whole new level by breath­ing new life into old trucks

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Working Wheels - JAMES STAN­FORD james@stan­ford.id.au

THERE’S some­thing old and some­thing new in ev­ery Volvo truck. In fact, the truck­maker es­ti­mates that about 30 per cent of the steel used for the trucks it makes in its Swedish fac­to­ries is re­cy­cled.

Volvo has a spe­cial divi­sion in its Gothen­berg head­quar­ters, where work­ers pull apart old trucks so the parts can ei­ther be re-used or re­cy­cled.

In gen­eral, West­ern Euro­pean op­er­a­tors re­place their trucks far more of­ten than in Aus­tralia so re­cy­cling them is a big­ger is­sue there than it is here. When old trucks and cars are re­tired in Aus­tralia, they are usu­ally crushed and the metal com­po­nents melted down.

The steel is then gen­er­ally used for other items such as fenc­ing wire and con­crete re­in­force­ment. Volvo says that much of the old metal it sends to be re­cy­cled ac­tu­ally comes back for use in the new truck.

About 97 per cent of the cast iron and roughly half the steel con­tent used in a new Volvo truck is re­cy­cled. The com­pany ex­plains the en­vi­ron­men­tal gains are con­sid­er­able, given melt­ing down and re-us­ing metal uses con­sid­er­ably less en­ergy than pro­duc­ing the ma­te­rial from scratch.

The com­pany’s Gothen­borg re­cy­cling work­shop man­ages to dis­man­tle and re­cy­cle 30 to 40 trucks a year. In the case of a large truck such as an FH, around nine tonnes of metal are re­cov­ered and re­cy­cled.

Much of the metal is melted down, sev­eral com­po­nents are sold on as sec­ond-hand parts and the re­main­ing el­e­ments such as the plas­tic trim and rub­ber parts are sent away to be in­cin­er­ated.

Even bet­ter: Volvo says noth­ing goes into land­fill.

Gear­boxes and rear axles, are sent to be re­con­di­tioned be­fore be­ing sold. But the en­gines are sim­ply cleaned up and sold on be­cause of the pro­hib­i­tive cost of re­build­ing them. When old trucks ar­rive at the work­shop, tech­ni­cians pull them apart and of­ten have to use blow­torches to dig out rusted-on bolts. Tech­ni­cian Jimmy Gus­tavs­son said:

We have to fight them a bit but we al­ways win.’’

The cabs are stripped, cleaned and resold as long as they’re less than 10 years old and in good con­di­tion.

Waste not, want not: The process will re­cy­cle up to 40 old trucks

a year

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