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Volvo to use 25 per cent recycled plastics in new cars from 2025

Volvo Cars has announced its aim of ensuring that, from 2025 onwards, at least 25 per cent of plastics used in every new Volvo car will be made from recyclable materials.

The company has also called on suppliers in the automotive industry to collaborate more closely with car manufacturers, with an aim to developing components that are more sustainable, particularly with regard to plastics.

To demonstrate the viability of this aim, the company displayed a purpose-built version of its XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid SUV during the Volvo Ocean Race stopover at Gothenburg, the home city of Volvo. The SUV looks identical to the current model, but has several plastic components which have been replaced with equivalents containing recycled materials.Volvo to use 25 per cent recycled plastics in new cars from 2025

This model’s interior contains a tunnel console made from renewable fibres and plastic from discarded fishing nets and maritime ropes. The carpet has fibres made from plastic bottles and a recycled cotton mix from clothing manufacturers’ offcuts, while the seats are also comprised of PET fibres from plastic bottles. Additionally, previously-used car seats were turned into sound-proofing material utilised under the bonnet.

The round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race is run in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme’s Clean Seas campaign, which aims to encourage global cooperation to reduce marine plastic pollution. As such, seven of the race’s stopover locations have been designated an ‘Ocean Summit’, organised to encourage action and discussion on the plastic problem.

Volvo’s steps to sustainability 

Volvo has made a number of commitments to improving the sustainability of its products and manufacturing processes. In 2017, the company pledged to make all new Volvo cars launched after 2019 electric, and last month it stated that it aims for fully electric cars to make up 50 per cent of its global sales by 2025. Moreover, in terms of operations, the company is targeting climate-neutral manufacturing by 2025 – meaning that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and offset with environmentally-friendly measures. The engine plant in Skövde, Sweden, became its first climate-neutral facility in January this year.

Martina Buchhauser, Senior Vice President of Global Procurement at Volvo Cars, commented: “We already work with some great, forward-thinking suppliers when it comes to sustainability; however, we do need increased availability of recycled plastics if we are to make our ambition a reality. That is why we call on even more suppliers and new partners to join us in investing in recycled plastics and to help us realise our ambition.”

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, added: “Extensive recycling and reuse of plastic is vital to our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution. Volvo’s move to integrate plastic waste into the design of their next fleet of cars sets a new benchmark that we hope others in the car industry will follow. This is proof that this problem can be solved by design and innovation.”

Using recycled materials in cars

While Volvo has announced its initiative to recycle more plastic, one of the most significant companies taking active steps in recycling materials for car manufacturing is Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which has focused particularly on recycling aluminium.

Aluminium is almost endlessly recyclable – the International Aluminium Institute states that 75 per cent of all aluminium ever produced is still in productive use. JLR’s REALCAR (REcycled ALuminium CAR) project, run with aluminium producer Novelis over 2015/16, saw the company’s 11 UK press shops introduce a system for segregating waste aluminium scrap in order for it to be sent back to Novelis and re-melted into recycled aluminium sheet for use in vehicles. The process, which creates a ‘closed-loop’ car manufacturing system, uses up to 95 per cent less energy than creating aluminium from scratch.

After the project enabled 75,000 tonnes of aluminium to be reclaimed in 2016/17, the £2-million REALITY (REcycled ALuminium Through Innovative TechnologY) scheme was launched last year. In January of this year, resource recovery specialist Axion Recycling joined the initiative, providing research into sensor-sorting technologies which could separate aluminium alloys from each other, as well as into their composite metals.

Richard McKinlay, Axion’s Head of Circular Economy, commented: “This ground-breaking research will contribute towards the development of the circular economy for the automotive sector and enhanced environmental performance. Innovations in the sorting and separating technologies applied to automotive end-of-life waste streams will also help other sectors, including packaging and construction.”

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