A Preliminary Study of the Recovery and Recycling of Automotive Plastics 930561

Each year, an estimated 11 million vehicles are scrapped in the United States, generating some 2.5 billion pounds of discarded automotive plastics. The commercial recycling of post-consumer automotive plastics is currently limited to polypropylene battery cases. While some automotive plastic parts such as tail lamps, fenders, bumper covers, wheel covers, and interior trim are reused, the majority of automotive plastics is landfilled. Increasing public pressure is forcing the automotive and related industries to find new ways to divert the plastics away from disposal and into productive uses.
In its response to this issue, the American Plastics Council (APC), a joint initiative with The Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. (SPI), commissioned the “Automotive Plastics Recovery and Recycling Research Project”. This project resulted in the preliminary investigation of the dismantling, transportation, and scrap reprocessing industries to determine the technical and economic feasibility associated with the recovery and recycling of automotive plastics.
The Research Project involved five dismantlers, an automobile shredder, and a non-ferrous metal separator. In all, eight types of plastic materials used in the production of 21 different parts were evaluated. More than five thousand pounds of post-use automotive plastics were recovered during a three month collection period. Five plastics reclaimers and five industry laboratories located in the United States and Canada reprocessed and analyzed the material.
The research project has shown that the recovery and recycling of post-consumer automotive plastics has the potential to become economically viable; however, it also demonstrated that this potential varies according to the parts/polymers recovered. Difficult challenges exist to recover clean resins in sufficiently large quantities in order to encourage reclaimers to recycle post-use automotive plastics and develop commercially viable recovery and recycling infrastructures.


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