EUROPEAN AUTO FIRMS FOSTER PVC RECYCLING

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Leading automotive parts producers, auto manufacturers and resin suppliers have launched a joint initiative to recycle PVC parts from scrapped vehicles in Europe.

Together, they aim to step up recycling of PVC auto components to 11 million pounds per year within five years.

The initiative aims to meet commitments that vehicle builders and automotive parts makers' associations reached with French authorities in 1993.

Ten companies, including vehicle makers PSA/Peugeot-Citro├źn and Renault, and PVC resin producers Elf Atochem SA and Solvay SA, joined forces to set up Autovinyle at the end of January.

Autovinyle is looking for two partners to carry out the recycling operations. Three firms in France and Germany are being considered, according to Alain Jean of Elf Atochem in Paris, the project's managing delegate.

Jean, Elf Atochem's plastics recycling manager, expects the two recyclers to be chosen within three months. Autovinyle decided to use two separate companies to maintain ``healthy competition,'' he said.

Waste PVC will be sourced through Autovinyle's partners for mechanical recycling and eventual sale back into automotive and other applications, he said. Some recyclate will go back to vehicle parts, depending on demand, while other uses will include floor coverings and construction.

The Autovinyle partnership plans to step up recycling gradually, from 2.2 million pounds for its first year, 4.4 million pounds for the second year, and rising to 11 million pounds by the fifth year.

Autovinyle is working on the basis that a car uses an average of 221 pounds of plastic, of which an estimated 22 pounds is PVC. The objective is to recycle 25 percent of that total, which represents 80 percent of parts suitable for mechanical recycling, Jean said.

While the project will start in France, he said scrap may be drawn in later from other countries, including Germany and Belgium, since most of the partners have international operations across Europe.

Autovinyle will recycle PVC parts including seat coverings, door panels and roof linings. It will concentrate on parts easily cut out and isolated for recycling.

Autovinyle's chairman is Gilbert Chomton of Elf Atochem. The vice chairman is Jean-Paul Vallat of Renault and the secretary is Alain Devaux of Plastic Omnium/J. Reydel SA of Paris.