Plastic power for car companies
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Plastic recycling is the next big thing
Plastic is becoming one of the world’s greatest environmental concerns. By 2050, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, if we continue discarding plastic in the way we do, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.
The process of decomposition is not related to a manmade material such as plastic, whilst there are statistics that do say that plastics "decompose" in 100 years, 450 years, or even 1000 years. However, it essentially breaks up and becomes brittle over time. Even over a much longer period, nano-plastics form from plastic breaking down and still causing damage to wildlife and ocean life.
Car companies know about the serious issue of CO² emissions, but now some of the biggest automakers are using new and innovative ways to build, source and recycle their car parts.
BMW is committing to collecting plastic waste from the world’s oceans to recycle for its own use. What’s more, all new vehicles entering production will use less plastic in favour of materials that are easier to decompose.
It’s said that its new recycling initiative will allow BMW to build both interior and exterior parts for its new cars. For example, 95% of the new BMW i3 can now be recycled for future models, right down to the carbon fibres.
One of Ford’s main missions is to reduce its carbon footprint in all areas. In the UK, all collected damaged bumpers are recycled to make the next set of bumpers for new vehicles. It also operates a “New For Old” scrappage scheme to recycle as many parts of your old vehicle for use in its new cars.
Did you know that 22 plastic bottles are recycled and used to make one seat cover in a Ford Focus?
In 2013, Toyota announced that it uses 20% of recycled plastic or plant-based materials in its vehicles.
In response to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s findings, Toyota has launched the Environmental Challenge 2050 with six challenges to tackle – including recycling as many parts of their vehicles as possible.
Recently, Toyota trialled a Toyota Prius scrapping process, where the firm discovered 96.6% of the model can be scrapped and recycled.
Nissan has also begun a similar pledge to reduce its plastic and material usage by 2022. Recycled plastic bottles and bottle caps now make the components used for the dashboard, floor panels and speakers.
Nissan also operates a free recycling scheme for every vehicle that reaches the end of its life. The parts scrapped are then used in new vehicles.
Known for its super-powered electric cars, Tesla uses a range of materials to build and develop its vehicles. The company currently operates a battery recycling program that ensures all plastic materials and other materials can be used in car parts for its latest vehicles.
Tesla’s newest solar panel venture also means that future plastics recycled will be used to build and repair the firm’s solar panels.
What can you do to help?
Are you feeling inspired to do your bit?
You can scrap your car when it reaches the end of its life, so that the car parts can be recycled for reuse. This can be done at your car manufacturer or at a legally authorised scrapyard, otherwise known as an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF). To find your nearest ATF, you can enter your postcode using the vehicle scrapyard finder tool on the government website.
If your car hasn’t reached the end of its life just yet, and you’ve had parts of your car replaced, you can ask for the old parts to be given back to your car manufacturer. These can then be reused and repaired again for future parts.
If you want to take it the next level, here is our guide to being a greener driver.