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Ford program makes bumper-to-bumper a good thing

By: Rhoda Miel

December 28, 2012

DEARBORN, MICH. (Dec. 28, 11:50 a.m. ET)  — Ford Motor Co. has expanded its car-parts recycling program to bumper fascias and headlights, and in the process found ways to reuse about 62,000 bumpers and 26,000 headlights in the past two years.

“Most parts that come back to us through the [recycling] program still have a lot of life left,” said Kim Goering, manager of Ford’s remanufacturing and recycling programs, in a Dec. 27 press release updating the automaker’s recycling progress. “That makes a strong business case to do whatever we can to extend the life of those components.”

Dearborn-based Ford launched its Core Recovery Program in 2003, initially focused on large metal parts such as engine components, and valuable electronic sensors and fuel injectors. The company estimates it has kept 120 million pounds of damaged parts out of landfills since the program began.

Two years ago, it added bumpers and headlights, noting wealth of potential plastics for recycling.

A typical headlight today is a multipart assembly with expensive polycarbonate and other engineered plastics, along with reflectors, wire harnesses and the light bulbs themselves, Ford executives said.

Bumper fascias are typically 5-6 feet long and weigh 20 pounds.

“That adds up fast and it makes it pretty easy to see how much of an impact the program makes,” Goering said.

The recovery program works through Ford vehicle-repair shops, and operate much like a bottle-deposit system. Dealers pay a “core charge” on each new part they buy to replace a damaged one, but receive that money back when they turn in the old part.

Damaged parts typically are turned over to third-party companies that specialize in recycling those parts. Bumper fascias, for instance, can be reground to reuse the thermoplastic polyolefin and other thermoplastics. Other components may be repaired, cleaned and tested if they are still in working order, then sold for future use. When the part cannot be repaired or recycled, Ford oversees its disposal.

Mark Trombetta, manager of the Ford Regional Core Recovery Center Network, said that in addition to its environmental benefits, the process helps to keep damaged Ford parts out of the marketplace — unless they have passed tests. That, in turn, helps Ford’s quality image.

 “We are always considering the business case for different products, which is quite a task when you think about the sheer quantity and complexity of parts going into today’s vehicles,” Goering said.