A Road Map for Plastics
Increasing the ability to recycle automotive plastics has led to funding of a new report between ARC and ECCC.
As part of its focus on the circular economy, Environment & Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is looking at various ways in which to promote sustainability through recycling. A big push has been on plastics and a few years ago ECCC hired Dillion Consulting to conduct a master study on plastic waste. The report looked at different aspects, including where the waste is being generated, where it goes; which sectors of the economy contribute to it and the significance of those contributions. The report concluded that around 9% of plastic waste can be attributed to the transportation sector.
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At present, there is very little data on this within our industry, yet because it is a sector that ECCC closely interacts with on a regular basis, two major funding proposals were put forward. One focused on pre-shredding activity, the other, post-shredding. From this, discussions with our association led to the development of a proposal to prepare a final document entitled The Automotive Recyclers of Canada Roadmap to Increase Recycling of Auto Plastics from End of Life Vehicles in Canada.
This project will be undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change and their Zero Plastic Waste Initiative.
The ARC ELV Roadmap research agreement covers several key areas:
- Survey and Profile of Amount of Pre-Shredder Auto Plastic Potentially Available for Recycling. The ARC Roadmap project will start with a survey of over 500 companies identified as active in the ELV sector nationally. The purpose of the survey will be to compile information on current practices in auto plastics management and recycling, and to identify opportunities to divert more auto plastics directly at these sites.
- Tear Down Research of ELVs to Identify Auto Plastics, Logistics and Recycling Options. A tear down research project would be carried out at two ARC member facilities on a representative sample of typical ELVs that are commonly scrapped. This tear down of selected vehicles would identify the plastic components that could be removed prior to the shredding process.
- Assess Potential Approaches to Increased Auto Plastics Recycling. The third component of the Roadmap would explore current best practices in auto plastics recycling globally and also identify the practical elements of increasing recycling of auto plastics in Canada.
- Develop a Roadmap to increase pre-shredder auto plastics recycling in Canada. The finding from tasks 1, 2, and 3 will be used to develop the ARC Roadmap to guide activities in auto plastic recycling for the next five years (2022 to 2027), in order to help reach higher automotive plastic diversion targets.
To help facilitate this project, ARC is working with a number of consultants who have done work in the areas of ELVs, plastics recovery and circularity. The project is scheduled to be completed by March 31, 2022.
The key points listed above essentially relate to what our industry is already doing regarding plastic component removal and disposal from end of life vehicles. Two of the biggest plastic related items that recyclers currently remove are bumper covers and fuel tanks. As part of the research, we will be conducting motion studies with our members, many of which already have a solid understanding on what they spend in terms of time and steps to disassemble and de-pollute a vehicle for their regular business activities.
From that we will be able to determine what plastics we can recover, identify and measure. There will also be engagement with the OEMs to determine where and what type of plastics are in their vehicles, along with what is required in terms of purchasing recycling plastics and whether it makes more sense to do this either pre or post-shredding of these parts, both of which have benefits and drawbacks. Most of the current findings around the world are leaning toward the post-shredding model, which is more efficient, less labour, but more capital-intensive than pre-shredding.
Ultimately, the goal is to determine how much of these plastics that are removed from ELVs, can be recycled and put back into the circular economy. The research report aims to demonstrate whether the goals set by the ECCC are practical and achievable—where gaps in the process can be identified and filled, and where auto recyclers can generate sustainable profits from this process to enable them to continue investing in it for the future.
Originally published in Autosphere October 2021