Orlando, Fla. — It was about three years ago that Kendra Martin first attended an automotive event as an employee of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
And at that gathering she got the sense that recycled plastic was still being viewed as cheap.
But in the years that have followed, the senior director of industry affairs at SPI has seen a huge change in the perception of using recycled-content plastic parts.
“That seems, for the most part, to be gone. That doesn't seem to be the attitude anymore,” she said at SPI's inaugural Re|focus Recycling Summit & Expo in Orlando. “That's a pretty quick shift.”
Automotive plastic recycling has become such an important emerging issue for SPI that the trade group is out with a brand new report highlighting the opportunities and challenges that face that segment of the industry.
End-of-life vehicle recycling, for years, has essentially focused on metal recycling. For decades really. And why not? The metal recycling industry has essentially perfected ways to capture the overwhelming majority of metal in an automobile. It's one of the great success stories in recycling.
But with plastic components becoming more and more a part, no pun intend, of new vehicles, SPI wants to put a greater emphasis on examining the opportunities to recycle those materials instead of seeing them essentially head to the landfill.
SPI's latest Plastics Market Watch report shines a light on automotive recycling, examining what's going on in the business from both an end-of-life perspective as well as recycled content going into new automobiles, Martin said.
“We just looked at here's what we see going on. The big autos are committed to a bunch of different areas of introducing recycled content and using that in their vehicles. And also the end of life issues,” she said.
The report also hits on zero-waste efforts by manufacturers that necessitate a second life for their scrap.
“Everything that's going on in automotive. It's really a thought piece about laying out ideas of where the industry could be going and how to get around some of the challenges,” Martin said.