New Initiatives Are Putting Old Plastics in Our Cars

Ford EcoSport 10 photos
Photo: Ford
Chevrolet EquinoxFord EcoSportFord EcoSportFord EcoSportFord EcosportFord ExplorerFord ExplorerFord ExplorerFord EcoSport
I remember growing up and playing with cars made of plastic. I also remember imagining myself as the driver. Nowadays, that imagination has become a reality. But without the bright colors and all.

For the past ten years, the automotive industry has been growing exponentially. As production numbers continue to increase, so does the need for efficient waste management.

We have been seeing a large amount of awareness in the past decades toward renewable and sustainable growth, and not just with the environment in mind, but as a business model as well.

General Motors, Ford, and other automotive giants have begun to answer the call to recycling for many years now. In the process, they have been setting up facilities that are designed to do just that, work recycled plastics and other materials into new reusable base material for production in the automotive domain.

Ford EcoSport
Photo: Ford
The production process or recycled plastics is fairly simple. At the bottom of the pyramid is the collecting stage. Facilities and initiatives purposed solely for collecting have to be in place. The next level sends plastics off to the break-down or shredding phase, which turns the plastic waste into flakes. These flakes are then used as the base material for different products.

Some flakes are formed into thread and spun to make carpets, while some are formed into sheets that are then shaped into components like the underbody shields and wheel liners.

Its seems that all GM global facilities recycle their water bottles and are working with 11 other businesses. All of this is done through the Do Your Part program, where the plastic is then transformed into air filtration components and noise-reducing insulation. GM’s has taken this initiative a step further and also creates insulation for use in coats to aid the homeless community through Empowerment Plan.

"Seven bottles were used in each fabric insulation that covered the 2017 Chevrolet Equinox V6 engine to dampen noise, and six bottles help make an air filtration component used in 10 GM facilities. We convened 11 businesses that make up the supply web in the campaign. “Do Your Part” is an example of how we can and have influenced the supply chain, not just working directly with our Tier 1s, but collaborating with multiple Tiers to integrate our plastic as a feedstock for specific products”  said Bridget Burnell, G.M.’s Global Manager for Sustainability.

Ford Explorer
Photo: Ford
As mentioned earlier, Ford, another power-house of the auto industry, has been using recycled plastics since the 90s, and annually prevents 1.2 billion bottles from being dumped. Advancements in technology have led to an even higher incorporation of recycled plastics in their products.

Ford proudly announces that 250 bottles’ worth of recycled plastic is used in its average-size vehicles. All this plastic is used to make underbody shields, wheel liners, carpeting and sound-proofing materials. But some models in the Ford lineup use even more recycled plastic bottles.

The EcoSport series is said to have just its carpeting made from over 400 recycled bottles.

"We do it because it makes sense technically and economically as much as it makes sense for the environment. This material is very well suited for the parts we’re making with it, and is extremely functional,”  says Thomas Sweder at Ford.

Even with worldwide efforts to reuse as much as we can, 91% of the worlds’ plastic waste goes untouched.
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About the author: Cristian Curmei
Cristian Curmei profile photo

A bit of a nomad at heart (being born in Europe and raised in several places in the USA), Cristian is enamored with travel trailers, campers and bikes. He also tests and writes about urban means of transportation like scooters, mopeds and e-bikes (when he's not busy hosting our video stories and guides).
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