A waste of raw materials: only one out of four cars is recycled in Germany

A waste of raw materials: only one out of four cars is recycled in Germany

May 29, 2019
Marcia González

To complete the resource cycle, Scholz Recycling and TSR Recycling propose a central office to recycle end-of-life vehicles (ELV) in Germany – a project backed by findings of a commissioned study on the recycling and utilization of ELVs

Could recyclability be a way to leave the plastic trap? Certainly, that’s the theme of a Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2019 presentation being delivered by Dr Klaus Haschulte, CEO of the Essingen-based Scholz Recycling.

Millions of vehicles go out of commission every year in Germany but only one out of four retired cars remain in the country to be disposed of correctly. As such, various industries lose valuable resources. Closing the recycling gap with properly reprocessed products is more sustainable than re-extracting them expensively from primary sources. And that’s what the Study of Recycling ELVs concluded, too, which was commissioned by Scholz Recycling and TSR Recycling at the independent Prognos Institute. Prognos has found out that by 2030 only 1.1 million out of 5.2 million tonnes of built-in raw materials will be recycled. This unguided recycling of ELVs results in about €2.4 billion of economic damage each year.

“The presented figures are alarming and clearly show that Germany needs a directional policy, especially as a country of scarce raw materials,” commented Bernd Fleschenberg, CEO at TSR. “Only if politicians side with the automotive industry and the recyclers will we be able to significantly increase the current utilization rate of 20%, in order to minimize the huge loss of raw materials,” Dr Hauschulte added.

Both Scholz and TSR therefore suggest installing a central office which organizes the recycling of ELVs. Via recycling certificates, the process could be controlled and supervised. To fund the office, a fee could be charged for each new car sold. “From our point of view,” Hauschulte continued, “this office will be most effective if it operates out of the industrial sector itself, with no necessity for additional state bureaucracy.” Fleschenberg also emphasized “that the contributions made should be invested in environmentally friendly recycling as well as in research projects”.

This is because the study reveals that the built-in materials will significantly change in their compositions by 2030. With 15% less steel in the construction of cars, the proportion of more than 50 different plastics and plastic composites will double. “Those complex composites cannot be separated using current recycling processes, which will hamper the compliance with recovery rates in future,” Hauschulte warned.

Effective recycling needs an intense dialog and cross-industrial exchange, otherwise the recycling companies cannot process scrap because they do not know from what kind of materials and composites the cars were made of. Fleschenberg therefore summized that “it is crucial to integrate the recycling branch into the product development process from the very beginning so that the resource cycle, in accordance with the principles of a circular economy, can be closed more effectively and sustainably.”

Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2019 will take place from Thursday 27 June to Friday 28 June, at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Frankfurt, Germany. To register for this highly focused and solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email peter@trans-globalevents.com

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