We (the royal we) have been asking car companies for electric vehicles and alternatives to gasoline for decades, though rarely in resounding force. Finally though, the message has gotten through. A lot more goes into a car than gas though; the production process is labor and material intensive, and many of the plastics and other materials use large quantities of hazardous chemicals. That said, cars have a high recycling rate, and many are made from the same metal and other materials that has been in use for decades now.
Which is why a press release from Ford touting the new 2011 Explorer’s high recyclable rate. Sure an 85% recyclable rate is impressive, but the industry-wide average is already 80%. So I ask you; will we ever see 100% recyclable cars?
I will give Ford credit for looking outside the box. They have touted their use of bio-foam in their seats and use of recycled fabrics for some time now, and the Explorer does more of that. They also list some impressive statistics, like saving 119 tons of “virgin steel” per year by recycling metal stamps from the F-150 body sides as noise baffles. The soy foam in their seats has saved over 10,000 barrels of oil annually too.
Trumpeting the Explorer as 85% recyclable is a bit deceiving though, if only because most other cars are largely recycled too. I will be more impressed when an automaker comes out with a 100% recycled car that can be mass produced. Right now, almost 99% of the metal from every car that is scrapped is currently recycled. But for every ton of metal that is recycled, about 500 pounds of shredder “fluff” (that is, assorted plastics and polymers) is sent to land fills. I think we can do better. Perhaps car companies should start running recycling operations of their own and get back as much of their old cars as possible?
It would be interesting to see someone try.