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Recycling plastic: point of view of Raphaël Guastavi

Recycling plastic: point of view of Raphaël Guastavi
#plasticsrecycling #automotiveindustry #environmentalimpact #productionprocess

Integrating recycled plastics into the production process is an opportunity for the automotive industry and an important part of the global commitment to decarbonization. In future years, promoting recycling channels will be crucially important. OPmobility is well placed to meet the targets it has set itself for incorporating recycled plastics into its solutions and products.

How can we meet the challenge of plastic recycling?

Those who start recycling plastics today will have a better chance of being ready to comply with regulations and to respond to environmental issues.
Raphaël Guastavi, Deputy Director of the Circular Economy Department at ADEME (the French Agency for Ecological Transition)

How important is plastic to the automotive industry?

R. Guastavi: In 2020, 8% of the total annual production of French plastics manufacturers—4.9 million metric tons—was used in the automotive industry. At the other end of the chain, the end-of-life vehicle (ELV) industry processes 190,000 metric tons, which equates to 5% of all plastic waste, and that proportion remains similar across Europe. Although the collection rate for this form of waste is only 35%, compared with 60% for household plastic waste, we expect that level to rise over the next few years. Nevertheless, there are still many challenges to be overcome.

Why is that?

R. Guastavi: Traditionally, the automotive industry has relied heavily on engineering polymers containing additives, composites and elastomers. These bi-injection molded or co-extruded plastics improve vehicle component productivity, quality and durability. But these component parts are difficult or impossible to separate for recycling purposes. Plastics also have to meet precise specifications for mechanical, aesthetic and safety reasons. The next problem is that materials recovered from ELVs manufactured more than 10 years ago do not necessarily meet today’s expectations. Lastly, the automotive value chain is complex, involving compounders, specialist subcontractors, automakers, marketing companies, and many others. So integrating recycling into the design process will require a coordinated effort.

What recent innovations could have a positive impact on mobility?

R. Guastavi: In terms of logistics, there are some original initiatives emerging between insurance companies and auto-service centers, for example, that aim to recover materials from damaged car headlights. Chemical recycling has also taken off recently, and has the potential to be a major source of innovation for recycling mixtures of plastics, special plastics like Polymethyl methacrylate and Polycarbonate (PC), and materials historically agreed to be impossible to recycle, such as rubbers.

What are the environmental and economic benefits for companies that integrate recycled plastics into their production processes?

R. Guastavi: This is something that subcontractors need to think through at a very early stage, because the quality accreditation process is a lengthy one. It also takes time to secure the best available sources of recycled materials. Those who start recycling plastics today will have a better chance of being ready to comply with regulations, to meet the needs of their customers and to respond to environmental issues. And although manufacturing technical products from virgin plastic is less costly than transforming systems to incorporate recycled material right now, this trend could be reversed in the longer term due to a series of factors, including dwindling resources and market-driven supply chain tensions for imported components. The rise of ecodesign, strategic partnerships, decarbonization and other trends make this the right time to make the switch to affordable locally recycled materials!


On the same topic, find out the complementary viewpoint from Nicolas Chevallier, Sustainable Materials Project Director, OPmobility.

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