We've seen plenty of pilot recycling programs in the past decade, and if we've learned anything from experience, we know that success at the pilot level doesn't mean diddley.
So while we're encouraged by the early results of an automotive plastics recycling project led by DaimlerChrysler AG, we caution processors and material suppliers from reading too much into the reports.
DaimlerChrysler announced the results of the automated plastics sorting study last month at the Society of Plastics Engineers Global Plastics Environmental Conference in Detroit. The preliminary word: the system can recover plastics from automotive shredder residue without a lot of complicated disassembly.
If the test results work on a larger scale, it could mean the end of a major headache for automakers and their suppliers. In recent years they've spent a lot of time and money trying to come up with a magical interior that is easy to recycle, no more expensive than current products, and with the looks and performance that will please consumers. Most of the effort has centered on mono-material thermoplastic systems, including all-polyolefin varieties.
But before suppliers abandon those efforts, remember the pilot studies of the past decade that “proved” that disposable diapers, juice boxes, and a host of other nearly impossible to recycle products could be recycled.
Commercializing the technology will be the real test. In the meantime, we're pleased with DaimlerChrysler's efforts, and especially with its push to get processors to boost their use of recycled plastics.