Long-term research confirms there can be another life for used automotive bumpers.
The End-of-Life Vehicle Recycling Project undertaken by the Plastics Industry Association shows there is both a market and technology currently available to recover thermoplastic polyolefin, or TPO, from used bumpers.
The project dates to 2015. Previous results initially indicated that such recycling could take place. Two subsequent phases of the work have come to the same conclusion, the trade group now reports.
Processors recycled four bales of bumpers from different sources to help determine whether the plastic could be used in new applications. The association also created a directory of recyclers specializing in materials from junked vehicles.
"The results from the ELV Project indicate that there is technology and a market to recycle plastic from vehicles," said Kendra Martin, vice president of industry affairs, in a news release. "Organizations have been able to make new parts from car bumpers."
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based custom compounder Noble Polymers LLC took part in the project.
"The properties of the material were very close to what we would see from a recycler — we saw a lot of promise in the material and we think if the collection and the stream can be scaled up, then there will be a lot of use for it in the market," Meagan Marko, product line manager for Noble Polymers, said in a statement.
Between 12 million and 15 million vehicles are taken out of service each year. Their average age is about 11 years.
Bumpers were identified as a candidate for recycling because they are made of 20 pounds of material, which is typically TPO. This allows companies to capture a large amount of homogeneous plastic.
Plastics typically are not recycled when vehicles are shredded, so the association set out to find ways to capture value before that happens. Automotive shredder residue, also known as shredder fluff, typically goes to landfills.
"Finding innovative ways to recycle and reuse plastics has a direct impact on the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills," interim President Patty Long said in a statement.
More information about the project is available at plasticsindustry.org/supply-chain/recycling-sustainability/new-end-market-opportunities-nemo/end-life-vehicle-elv.