Investigating Product Stewardship Opportunities in the U.S. Automotive Industry 2004-01-1297
In leading corporations, continuously improving environmental performance is in line with sound business practices. For this reason, companies in many product sectors around the globe have policies and programs that integrate environmental issues into their operations and decision-making practices. Internationally, we also see governments enacting environmental regulations to ensure that certain industry sectors and companies are actively reducing their impacts on the environment, in some way or another. This mix of company activity and government regulation for environmental performance is evident in North America's automotive sector. For instance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the automotive industry have worked on Pollution Prevention Programs and Hazardous Waste Minimization Programs targeting waste reduction efforts during the manufacturing process. Together they have also worked to comply with fuel economy standards and have partnered on the development of fuel cell technology. While it is widely recognized that the greatest overall environmental burden of a vehicle is created during it use phase, there are also environmental impacts from vehicles during the production and end-of-life stages.
This paper focuses on issues that are an important part of understanding opportunities for product stewardship in the North American automotive industry. These include information on the process for designing new vehicles, the materials used in vehicles, trends in the types of materials, the factors that can influence which materials are used, as well as practices to manage substances of concern and to increase recyclability and recycled-content of various vehicle components.
This paper is based on findings from research on opportunities for product stewardship in the sector. The original research was prepared for the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance (OEA) under a grant from U.S. EPA Region V. The research presented information on certain materials used in the automotive industry and highlighted the potential for product stewardship initiatives that would increase the use of recycled materials and reduce the use of materials of concern.