Vehicles and automotive parts are increasingly made of plastic, which is almost never recycled. Karen Wirsig, Program Manager at Environmental Defence in Canada, provides Auto Recycling with her views on how the vehicle recycling industry can play a part in helping to combat this global crisis.
The reality is that recycling is a challenge for all plastics, not just those used in vehicles. Of all the plastic ever made worldwide, it is estimated that only nine per cent was recycled even once, and only two per cent of recycled plastic is turned back into a similar product.
Right now, about 12 per cent of an average 1,800 kg vehicle is plastics that mostly end up shredded and sent to landfill or, worse, incinerators, where they emit greenhouse gases and other toxic chemicals into the air.
Plastics are made from a variety of polymers and additives that are generally difficult to sort for recycling. Virgin plastic, mostly made from subsidized fossil fuels, is relatively cheap to make. The low economic value of plastic scrap means it’s generally not worth going to the trouble of trying to do anything with it other than sending it to landfill. As a result, we treat plastic like garbage, even when it’s an important component in durable goods like automobiles.
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