Growing Use of Recycled Plastics in Automotive Applications

Growing use of recycled plastics in automotive applications

The annual convention of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries that was held on 22nd-27th April, 2017, witnessed the introduction of several new advancements in the field of recyclable plastics. This ushers in renewed efforts by automakers towards increasing the volume of recycled plastics used in automobiles and contributing in a small way towards reducing plastic waste that otherwise ends up in landfills.

Based on the reports generated by the Plastic Market Watch series initiated by the SPI, the use of recycled plastics in the automotive industry has grown extensively over the past five years, from around 10 kgs per car in 1960 to 150 kgs. Automotive companies are making sincere efforts to integrate recycled plastics within the automotive body parts and cut down on the scrap generated.

One of the primary reasons why companies consistently try to improve the quality of recycled plastics used in automobile is to meet the CAVE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. Plastic is a lot lighter in weight as compared to metals which reduces the weight of the car, and increases the fuel mileage. Plastics also help in enhancing other functions like acceleration, handling, safety and braking. The most important feature of plastic over metals is corrosion resistance and increased comfort for users.

Recycled plastics make up nearly 50% of the automobile’s volume, for only 10% of the weight, as determined by the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council. In addition, about 10% use of plastic instead of metal in any automotive can increase the fuel efficiency by 7.5%.

Polypropylene (PP) is the most widely used recyclable plastic in the industry. Plastic variants like HDPE, LDPE and LLDPE are mainly used for fuel systems and interiors.

Recycled plastics are mainly used in manufacturing auto bumpers as they are easily detachable from the chassis. An important consideration while recycling the plastic is to ensure that all additives belong to the same family as the core plastic to ensure optimal strength and durability.

Recyclable plastics have become an integral component of the automotive industry. Governed by the requirements of density, performance, and cost, recycled plastics are slowly losing the stigma attached to their use and are being used on an equal footing with virgin plastics in automotive applications.

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