Germany's Audi, tech institute launch project to recycle automotive plastics

Author: Stefan Baumgarten

2020/11/27

LONDON (ICIS)--German car maker Audi and the country’s Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) have teamed up on a pilot project for the chemical recycling of automotive plastics.

Under the project, the partners will take used auto plastic components - such as fuel tanks, wheel trim parts and radiator grills - from Audi models, and use chemical recycling to process them into pyrolysis oil.

This oil can then be used to make new plastics materials.

“If plastic components can be produced from pyrolysis oil instead of petroleum, it would be possible to significantly increase the proportion of sustainably manufactured components in automobiles,” said Marco Philippi, senior director for procurement strategy at Audi.

“In the long run, this method can also play a role in end-of-life vehicle recycling."

Audi is one of the first automobile manufacturers to test this recycling method in a pilot project with plastics from automobile production, it said.

So far, recycling automotive plastics has not been possible for many components.

Automotive plastics are typically “mixed plastics” that have to meet exacting safety, heat resistance and quality requirements.

Whereas plastics of the same type can often be mechanically recycled, recycling of mixed plastic waste poses a major challenge, Audi and KIT said in their statement.

The pyrolysis process can tolerate different grades of plastic, but the end product is an oil, which often needs further refining before it can be converted into monomers and new polymers.

Additional reporting by Al Greenwood

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