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Approximately 12-15 million vehicles are scrapped each year in the U.S. The average lifespan of a vehicle is estimated to be about 11 years, and increasingly those vehicles are comprised of more and more plastics.  Factors like increased Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and the increased design freedom afforded by plastics are driving the increased use of plastics in new vehicle design. Recovery of plastic components before shredding is largely driven by the resale market, but some recovery for mechanical recycling is also occurring. 

It is the belief of the Plastics Industry Association and that new efforts should be pursued to identify whether further recovery of plastic components for recycling could be done to the economic benefit of auto recyclers, and to the material supply benefit of the plastics industry. Through increasing knowledge about the value of plastics and scaling up markets for ELV bumpers and other parts, it is possible that many more bumpers could be recovered prior to shredding of ELVs.  

The Transportation and Industrial Plastics (TIP) Committee agreed to support this effort and a formal demonstration project was launched in November 2015. The goal of this effort was to demonstrate the viability of collection and recycling of auto plastics from ELVs and build a basic recovery model, beginning with Thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO), which can be eventually expanded upon to include a broader range of resins and parts.

To date, a variety of testing has been conducted on TPO recovered from bumpers, and initial evaluation suggests there could be strong demand for the recycled TPO if the right end markets are identified. Through collaboration with various other associations and member companies, PLASTICS will work to prove out those end markets, creating new opportunity for auto recyclers to generate revenue.

View the ELV Technology Package for Phase I | here

View the ELV Technology Package for Phases II and III | here

View a summary of the test results from all project phases | here

View a directory of recyclers who process TPO bumpers | here

View the PLASTICS ELV Economic Pro Forma | here