Audi and KIT Working to Recycle Automotive Plastics

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Many components in automobiles are made from plastics and petroleum-based materials have been suitable for manufacturing plastic components. Such materials are not recyclable in most cases. Whereas plastics of the same type can often be mechanically recycled, recycling of mixed plastic waste can be a major challenge. Audi and the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) are therefore launching a pilot project for chemical recycling as part of the “Industrial Resource Strategies” THINKTANK to feed such mixed plastic fractions back into a resource-conserving circular system.

Marco Philippi, Senior Director Procurement Strategy said, “We want to establish smart circular systems in our supply chains and make efficient use of resources. Chemical recycling has great potential for this: If plastic components can be produced from pyrolysis oil instead of petroleum, it would be possible to significantly increase the proportion of sustainably manufactured components in automobiles. In the long run, this method can also play a role in end-of-life vehicle recycling”.

KIT and Audi will initially test the technical feasibility of chemical recycling and to evaluate the method in terms of its economy and environmental impacts of this method. For this purpose, the company provides plastic components that are no longer needed from Audi models. These plastic components are processed into pyrolysis oil by chemical recycling. The quality of this oil like petroleum products, and materials made from it are also high grade as new ones. And components made from pyrolysis oil can be used again in automobiles.

So far, chemical recycling is the only method that can be used to convert such mixed plastic waste into products with equal quality of new ones. As a result, a wider range of plastics can be recovered. Audi is first automobile manufacturer who test this recycling method in a pilot project with plastics from automobile production.

Audi has identified chemical recycling as an opportunity as part of CO2 workshops. The objective of Audi’s CO2 program is to use resources efficiently and reduce CO2 emissions in the upstream value chain. Audi and its suppliers also successfully managed to recover aluminum waste and improve it to new-product quality level, as a result it avoids 150,000 metric tons of CO2 on the environmental balance sheet just in 2019.

You can read more details here.

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