A junkyard may appear to be little more than a landfill for old cars if you’re just driving by, but in fact, to succeed, it must function as a highly efficient recycling operation. Junkyards sell parts to other junkyards, mechanics, and directly to consumers, and attempt to make as much of a profit as possible from each part on every car in their inventories.
There is also a network of scavengers who travel around to junkyards gathering large core items, like alternators and starters, and a number of precious metals in small amounts that most don’t even recognize as in our cars. (Catalytic converters, for example, contain platinum and palladium, which are quite valuable when salvaged.) But a car needs to sit on the lot for a considerable period of time for this recycling process to work itself through. Parts from a car are usually sold one at a time over a period of months or even years; scavengers work on their own schedules. A scavenger may only come by a junkyard a few times a year to core out a particular metal or gather the useful components. Meanwhile, the junkyard needs to be selling parts off the car for it to be financially worth keeping in the inventory. A car is only sent off to be crushed for scrap metal when it no longer retains enough value to justify filling the space on the lot.
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