The Overlooked Environmental Impact of New Cars

There’s a myriad of reasons why new cars continue to fill the roads today; the desire for a newer model, an actual need to switch, thinking that it’s safer, etc. Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with it, knowing that the governments worldwide preferred it that way, with programs in select countries where people could trade in their jalopies for something newer. The general mindset confirms that newer is better. While it is true, knowing the higher safety standards and technological advancements, we often overlook the environmental impact.

You might be thinking what could be wrong in something that’s even encouraged by the government. Higher emission standards ensure that it would be less polluting, but the problem isn’t what goes in the air; rather, the entire car. Having to make more cars requires the operation of factories, which uses up a lot of resources. Production isn’t only in the manufacturer’s plants, as materials like interior plastics, steel, and glass are produced elsewhere. They are then transported by trucks, a process that would be repeated for the finished product. The transporting processes also contribute to the pollution, though significantly less than the whole process. Once assembled, the vehicles are then moved to dealerships. You might assume it ends there, but it only ends at the scrapyard. When the car reaches the end of its lifetime, it is destined for scrap; for countries that have car crushers, that is. In countries without a crusher, junked cars are left as-is in an empty lot. While the remains can always be stripped for parts, they are rarely recyclable, although some brands are working on reusing plastics and other materials that take forever to decompose.

The assumption of a new car’s expected lifespan might make the above argument a little less valid, but with all the technology onboard, the complications that it creates, and the gradual loss of practicality and repairability, it would take the most meticulous of owners to keep them on the road. Even then, unexpected faults may occur. Many wouldn’t pass up the chance to switch to something newer, a good show for planned obsolescence. If anything, buying used inflicts less environmental impact. The emissions might be slightly worse, but nothing compared to something new, from start to finish.

 

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