A joint project between automaker Audi and the industrial resource strategies think tank at Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) is aimed at finding an alternative to energy recovery as an end-of-life solution for automotive plastic components that are not suitable for mechanical recycling.
That work will focus on the many auto parts that are composed of more than one type of plastic, posing challenges for efficient mechanical recycling.
“We want to establish smart circular systems in our supply chains and make efficient use of resources,” said Marco Philippi, senior director of procurement strategy for Audi, part of Volskwagen AG
The new pilot project seeks to create smart circular systems for plastics, by establishing chemical recycling as a complementary technology to mechanical recycling, relegating incineration to the past.
The technology is being evaluated at KIT by teams led by Dieter Stapf at the Institute for Technical Chemistry and Rebekka Volk at the Institute for Industrial Production. Audi supplies the end-of-life plastic components recovered from Audi models returning from the German dealership network, which are then chemically processed into pyrolysis oil, to serve as feedstock for the production of new raw materials.
The technology enables a wider range of plastics to be recovered and conserves resources because fewer primary materials are required.
Audi is one of the first automobile manufacturers to test this recycling method in a pilot project with plastics from automobile production.
“Recycling automotive plastics has not been possible for many components so far. That is why we are doing pioneering work here together with Audi,” Stapf said, “If we want to close these loops, we need to develop suitable methods for this.”