Rethinking plastics recycling from end-of-life vehicles

A new project aims to solve the challenges of recycling plastics from end-of-life vehicles.

Bumpers, seat cushions, cable sheathing, seals, and more - around 1.5 million tonnes of a wide variety of plastics are used in passenger cars in Germany every year. In today's end-of-life vehicle processing, only a small proportion of the plastics can be recycled; the majority is sent to industrial shredding plants for energy recovery. A new project now aims to systemically solve the challenges of recycling plastics from end-of-life vehicles with the help of new sorting and recycling processes. To this end, the Öko-Institut is working with BASF SE, Volkswagen AG, SICON GmbH and the Technical University of Clausthal in a project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The project partners from industry and science are first developing a comprehensive concept for separating the highly complex material mix, based on a process that has already been developed over the last 20 years by Volkswagen and SICON. 

Challenges of plastics recycling
Ageing effects, impurities and changing material concepts pose major challenges to mechanical recycling processes. Improved sorting techniques and chemical recycling as a complementary solution to mechanical recycling can help to increase the recycling rate of end-of-life vehicles with regard to plastics in the future. The recyclate use rate in new vehicles should also benefit from this. In parallel, the economic efficiency of recycling plastics from end-of-life vehicles will be improved. Industry 4.0-based methods for controlling material flows will be used to optimally utilise potentials from secondary raw materials. Separating the plastics better from each other in order to recycle them more effectively is a central concern in this project.