Automaker Driving New Plastics Recycling Technology

Automaker Driving New Plastics Recycling Technology

a href = "http://www.greenbiz.com/frame/1.cfm?targetsite=http://www.daimlerchrysle...">DaimlerChrysler Corporation is testing plastics recycling technology that could help make the company's vehicles 95% recoverable within the next few years, significantly reducing the impact of end-of-life vehicles on the environment.

If validated in a five-month pilot project launched this month, the new recycling technology could reduce by one-third the amount of automobile waste going into landfills, provide a source for high quality recycled plastics that can be used to produce new automotive parts, and result in significant cost savings in the production of new vehicles, the automaker said.

The project represents the second phase of DaimlerChrysler's CARE (Concepts for Advanced Recycling and Environmental) Car Program, which aims to increase autos’ recyclability and employ more recycled materials in new vehicles.

"This project is not only good for the environment, it is good business for DaimlerChrysler," said Bernard I. Robertson, senior vice president of engineering technologies and general manager of truck operations.

"By recycling the plastics from old cars and trucks, which today are simply dumped in landfills, we believe we can reduce the cost of producing new vehicles by millions of dollars a year."

New Markets Possible

If successful, the test could also open the door to a profitable new market for automobile recyclers in recycled plastics, polyurethane foams and copper. The project is due to be completed in early 2001.

About 95% of automobiles are recycled; however, recycling is generally limited to the 75% by weight of the vehicle that is metallic. The remaining 25%, including a significant amount of plastics, has been very expensive recycle, DaimlerChrysler said. As a result, most of that remaining material, known as automotive shredder residue, is disposed of in landfills.

Many automakers rely on plastics as a way to reduce weight and improve fuel economy.

With increased plastics recycling made possible by the process under development at DaimlerChrysler, up to 95% of vehicles by weight could be recycled and recovered, the automaker predicts. And DaimlerChrysler would have a cost-effective source for recycled plastics that can be used to increase the number of components made from recycled plastics in new vehicles.

Stratus Sedans Led the Way

In April 1999, DaimlerChrysler unveiled two Dodge Stratus sedans developed with 26 supplier companies that demonstrated the potential for increasing recycled materials in new vehicles. More than 500 parts were modified to increase the content of recycled material, including tires, seats, instrument panels, trim, floor mats, sun visors, fuel tanks, air bag systems, seat belts, door handles, carpeting, fascias, tail lamps, body trim, mirrors and underhood plastic applications.

As a result of the project, technicians reduced vehicle weight by seven pounds, eliminating seven types of plastics -- and reducing the complexity of separating plastic components for recycling. Recycled materials composed up to 40% of the plastic used in the vehicles.

The two Stratus CARE Cars have undergone extensive road testing to confirm the durability of the redesigned parts. One of the vehicles was tested for 200,000 miles, the other for 100,000 miles.

"The vehicles passed with flying colors. There were no failures in any of the redesigned CARE Car components," said Gerald Winslow, CARE Car program manager.

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