New uses for recycled thermoplastic polyolefins (TPO) could divert over 145 million pounds of bumper fascia from landfills. Local body shops are a good source of TPO bumpers with little contamination, resulting in pellets that can meet 85-90% of virgin TPO mechanical properties, a new NEMO case study shows.
The average lifespan of a vehicle is estimated to be about 11 years, and increasingly those vehicles are comprised of more plastics. This new vehicle design is driven by factors like Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and the increased design freedom afforded by plastics. With approximately 12-15 million vehicles scrapped each year in the U.S., it is important to explore new ways to recover the plastics components at a vehicle’s end of life for recycling.
The PLASTICS NEMO End-of-Life Vehicle program was formed in November 2015 to demonstrate the viability of collecting and recycling auto plastics from end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) and build a basic recovery model. Beginning with thermoplastic polyolefin (TP0) bumpers, the project could eventually be expanded 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 a strong demand for the recycled TPO if the right end markets are identified and the logistics of collection are developed. Through collaboration with other associations and member companies, PLASTICS works to prove out the end markets, creating a new opportunity for auto recyclers to generate revenue and increase the recycling of plastic materials.
Participants in Phase I collected, processed and analyzed the physical properties of recycled TPO material. The Phase I technology package includes this information and details the economics of collection based on key cost variables. The economic pro forma Excel file is available to members of PLASTICS and the members of our association partners, the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), Auto Recyclers of Canada (ARC) and Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC). Please contact PLASTICS at [email protected].
Due to the promising results of Phase I, PLASTICS continued the project into Phases II and III which further replicated the collection, processing and characterization of recycled TPO material, highlighting the logistical challenges of collection. The findings are available in the Phase II and III technology package. The directory of recyclers capable of processing TPO bumpers is also available here.
A summary of test results from all project phases is available here.