Do car manufacturers use recycled materials? | AutoGuru
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Did you know: Car manufacturers use recycled materials

Rachel White

Updated 28 Sep 2022

Rachel White

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With the indisputable evidence that climate change does exist and global emissions haven’t yet peaked, the race is on to finally start the reversal on CO2 emission levels. We all have our part to play in this effort, including industries that need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This includes making significant progress in energy efficiency.

We can probably all agree there needs to be significant industry transitions made for us to get where we need to be, and while many businesses have taken up the challenge to reach a zero CO2 emissions target, the fact is that industry no longer has a choice. This must be done, otherwise, they will have no future. It is the only way for them to move forward.

So what are some of the actions that vehicle manufacturers have employed to move forward into a more positive and cleaner future?

Manufacturing plants

Heavy manufacturing uses a lot of energy and resources. Toyota and Volvo have now joined Renault by taking up the ‘zero-emission manufacturing plant’ challenge. Vehicle manufacturing plants are becoming zero-emission hubs determined to reach global targets.

Some common areas of importance are reducing the manufacturer plant energy use, emissions in new vehicles and the use of non-renewable resources. The construction of vehicles comes into question when it comes to materials used and what happens to those materials at the end of the cars life.

Typically in the past, resources were created from non-renewable sources. The objective now is to use renewable or recycled materials wherever possible and make sure that it can still be reused again after it’s current use has expired.

Recycled materials

Some of the more recognised manufacturers currently utilising recycled materials in cars are Nissan, Toyota, BMW, Subaru and Ford. What’s great to see is that vehicle manufacturers are coming up with their own ingenious and innovative processes to convert plastic waste into premium grade materials. These can then be used to create products that go on or in the vehicle.

These innovations eliminate single-use plastics in the manufacturing process. Ford Motor Company uses 1.2 billion recycled bottles per year on their cars. It’s not only plastic being recycled, but also renewable plant fibres are being used to replace non-renewable materials. Sugar cane and agave plant bi-products are being sourced to use in eco-friendly bioplastic. Even items like parts from old electrical appliances can be reused and refashioned for vehicle use.

But where exactly are the recycled materials used on a vehicle?

Recycled materials can be used in many areas of a car. 

  • Underbody and engine shields
  • Air cleaner housings
  • Engine fans and fan shrouds
  • Wheel arch liners
  • Fabrics and seat cushions
  • Under bonnet sound insulation
  • Dash and centre consoles
  • Interior door parts
  • Carpets and floor mats
  • HVAC temperature valves
  • Cam and engine covers
  • Carbon canisters

Using recycled materials on non-structural components provides a lighter alternative which helps to bring the total weight of the vehicle down. Manufacturers are also looking at ways to reduce the amount of scrap metal wasted when forming structural panels. The unused sheet metal that was previously thrown away is now being collected and recycled to be used for more new panels.

End of life

In the past, when a vehicle gets to the pearly gates, most of its materials have been difficult to separate, recover and recycle. New strategies are being developed to reuse and separate components so they are not going into waste and the recycling cycle continues over and over again.

It’s a breath of fresh optimism to see what is being done and I’m sure we’re all looking forward to the more amazing innovations yet to come.

Rachel White

Written By

Rachel White

Rachel spent her early adult life around cars, motorsport and hands-on with her own cars. This interest moved into various careers within the Automotive industry. Joined with her passion for writing, Rachel loves putting the two together to share her experience, so we can all become AutoGuru’s.