In an industry that is suffering from plummeting sales and the push to improve their footprint upon the environment, the automotive industry is looking to recycled plastics to help cut costs and do their bit for the environment.
The automotive industry has long used recycled metals in production. But now, with costs rising in every facet of production, recycled plastics are a new offset that the industry can rely on to help keep them afloat. But recycling plastics isn’t as simple as recycling metal.
By recycling plastic, you will see an immediate loss in quality, and the finished recycled product will become more brittle and less durable. "A lot of people, especially in this economy, are trying to cut costs, without cutting quality," said Lora Herron, a bio and recycled materials engineer at General Motors Corp. "Recycled plastics are a really good way to do that, as long as you’re careful about it and watch your quality."
The way that the automotive industry watches their quality is in mixing recycled plastics with new materials. Looking at your average car bumper, you would find that it might be made from as much as 20% recycled plastic.
In fact, the automotive industry are even taking steps that, though on an industrial scale, ring very much similar to those small steps that individual households are making.
– Honda Motor Company, who collect the plastic caps that are placed over engine openings as they are being built, and then sell them for recycling;
– International Automotive Components North America, supplier of Dearborn interiors, are recycling 20-pound slabs of plastic that are pushed out of injection molding machines. Once deemed too think to be sent to the company’s plastic grinder, IAC now thins the plastic so it can be ground up and used in interior parts.
– Ford’s fender liners are now made of recycled automotive battery casings.
– GM uses recycled water bottles to make the carpet and floor mats in its Pontiac G8 range of cars. It also uses recycled nylon for the casings of the exterior mirrors in cars such as its GMC Acadia.
The scale might be different to the “at home recycling” that we often hear about, but the results are the same. The automotive industry is doing what it can, in a bid to help the environment, but mostly, to help its costs.