Automotive Industry: Vehicle Recycling and Its Impact On the Environment - Part 3 of 5

Will Hornick

Vehicle Recycling: Plastics

Approximately 100kg or 10% of a standard vehicles weight is made up of plastics.
As well as the typical plastic components found in cars, OEM’s have also been using
fibre-reinforced plastics and composites for more and more applications in recent
years, due to their lightweight properties and recyclability. Although almost all of
these plastics can be recovered and reused, their extraction from scrapped vehicles
still comes with issues.

There could be up to 25 different types of plastic in the construction of a standard
vehicle, and most of these cannot be mixed together for recovery purposes.
Separation of the different plastics is an issue, and many of the component parts
will be contaminated with various clips, foams and fixings which must also be
removed during the recovery process.

For end-of-life vehicles in the UK the CARE organisation identified certain plastics
which could be targeted initially by dismantlers due to their abundance in vehicles
and the potential market demand for the materials. Polyester, ABS and
polypropylene were identified as target materials, with the value of the materials
estimated at £100-£250 per tonne.

The automotive industry is consistently increasing the amount of plastic used in
cars, and there have been a number of positive breakthroughs in composites in
recent years. Processes used to mould and manufacture car parts with composites
are being developed to the point that they will soon be able to serve the mass
market on an economically viable basis. As decisions are made in manufacturing on
plastics in the coming years and certain materials become industry standard, so the recycling industry can respond and develop recovery processes specific to those plastics.

This article falls under the Automotive Industry category here on Automotive IQ and is part of the Vehicle Recycling series.

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