Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cash for Clunkers? Was it a Success?

I do not think that Cash for Clunkers (properly known as Car Allowance Rebate System—or CARS) was a good approach to help decrease air pollution from mobile sources. In fact, the program ended up being a complete debacle, resulting in creating more waste than it was meant to save in the first place. 

The Automotive Recycler’s Association (ARA) suggests that “in addition to conserving natural resources, automotive recycling plays an important role in reducing air and water pollution, and solid waste generation” (2010). This would have been wonderful, except for one important fact. The cars that were collected from the CARS program were federally mandated to be shredded, rather than recycled. 
Where do you suppose the shredded material went to? That’s right, the landfill—Gasp! “For each ton of metal recovered by a shredding facility, roughly 500 pounds of shredder residue are produced, meaning about 3 to 4.5 million tons of shredder residue is sent to landfills every year” (Santisi, 2013). 100% of vehicles are able to be recycled. In fact, the engine itself takes the most amount of energy and resources to manufacture, so car companies reap both an environmental and cost benefit from being able to recycle engine parts” (Santisi, 2013). Therefore, companies that could have been repurposing those engines were instead having to use important resources to create brand new ones to keep up with the new market demand void that was left by the CARS program. 

Just like every other government program, the Cash for Clunkers deal was a complete failure. I would be extremely hesitant to suggest that the government should be involved in any other method for pursuing decreased air pollution from vehicles. I don’t believe that they can do a better job at environmental protection than the private market can.

For a very enlightening Fox Business News report in which Michael Wilson, executive vice president of the Automotive Recycler's Association discusses the impact 'Cash for Clunkers' has had on the environment, click here

Daniel Wagner.


Automotive Recycler’s Association, 2010. The Role of the Automotive Recycling Industry. Retrieved October 31, 2013 from
Santisi, J. January 2, 2013. The Cash for Clunkers Conundrum: That Cash for Clunkers Program Was Not an Environmental Success Story. Retrieved October 31, 2013 from

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