Crain News Service
DaimlerChrysler AG wants its suppliers of plastic parts to put a lot more recycled plastic in their products.
The goal, approved Dec. 18, is the most stringent recycling standard among automakers, according to recycling sources for several auto companies.
For plastic parts, Daimler-Chrysler wants suppliers to provide at least 20 percent recycled content by weight in 2000. For 2002 and beyond, the percentage climbs to 30 percent.
The new standard is a response to pressures in Europe to make vehicles more recyclable. It also stems from the belief that a recycling policy can help the company economically, said spokeswoman Sonja Bultynck.
'We're committed to this for the long term, and we don't buy into it lightly,' she said.
OTHER MATERIALS, TOO
New standards also will be in effect for suppliers of other materials, but the change is expected to have the greatest impact on plastics suppliers. Plastic is not recycled as easily as other materials, such as aluminum.
'If (suppliers) can't gain recycled content with one material, they should pick another one,' said Monica Prokopyshen, DaimlerChrysler senior specialist in product strategy and regulatory affairs. 'Basically, we want to look at what the industry is capable of doing.'
For 2002, DaimlerChrysler will require a minimum of 25 percent recycled content from aluminum-based products, 35 percent from ferrous-metal parts and 25 percent from a general 'other' category, which includes rubber, liquid chemicals and glass. In 2010, the percentage rises to 30 percent for aluminum and 40 percent for metal.
Ford Motor Co. adopted a recycling strategy in 1994. But that policy, which has stepped up use of recycled materials, is far less stringent than DaimlerChrysler's new standard.
DaimlerChrysler will adopt the program immediately on all Chrysler-brand vehicles, said Robert Kainz, DaimlerChrysler senior manager for pollution prevention and life cycle management. Eventually, Mercedes-brand vehicles are expected to follow suit, but the level of involvement has not been determined, he said.
The company asks that suppliers provide products with a certain percentage of recycled content for each material type, Kainz said. The percentage is based on total material weight, not on specific parts.
RECYCLING VS. LANDFILLS
The policy encompasses both post-consumer plastic (such as discarded bottles) and post-industrial plastic (such as scrapped autos). The use of post-consumer materials is critical to a strong recycling policy, Prokopyshen said. Factory scrap cannot provide enough material for high-volume use, she said.
'We have to look at a vehicle's end-of-life use and locate ways for it to be easily dismantled,' Prokopyshen said. 'Our policy says that every platform and every car after the 1998 model year has to meet the goals of finding recycled content.'
To date, however, plastic from discarded vehicles primarily has been sent to landfills, said Gary Wiesner, president of Pro Auto Recyclers Inc., a vehicle dismantling company based in Williamstown, N.J. Dismantlers have not found cost-effective means to remove the material, clean it and transport it to a plant, he said.
However, DaimlerChrysler's new mandate could change that, he said. Part of the problem has been a lack of demand by car manufacturers, Wiesner said.
'This may be just what we need,' said Wiesner, whose company runs five dismantling shops. 'We want to remove the parts from a landfill. If (DaimlerChrysler) can develop interest and help set up collection points, we'd see it as an economic plus to recycle.'
A LIFE-CYCLE APPROACH
Chrysler Corp. issued its first recycling policy guidelines in 1993 and began phasing in products to meet its goals, Kainz said. At the time, the company did not set percentage goals.
The new standard stipulates the recycled parts must not penalize the carmaker in quality, cost, weight, delivery or performance, Kainz said.
If a supplier cannot meet the standards, DaimlerChrysler will bring in an outside, life-cycle management consultant, he said. Working with the supplier, the contractor will assess where a recycled part will cut costs or delivery time, Kainz said.
Suppliers will be asked to subsidize the cost of hiring the consultant, he added.
That life-cycle approach is at the heart of DaimlerChrysler's interest in recycling, Prokopyshen said. The company thinks it can save money by not having to transport scrap material to landfills. Other savings come from lower tooling costs or resin volumes, Prokopyshen said.
World events could have piqued DaimlerChrysler's interest in recycling. Sweden has adopted a law that vehicles be at least 85 percent recyclable. The law requires manufacturers to identify how to disassemble vehicles and which materials can be recycled, said Kenneth Urban, recyclability engineer at General Motors' Truck Group in Pontiac, Mich.
The United Kingdom and Germany, home of DaimlerChrysler AG, are considering similar regulations, he said. Those regulations have gained the attention of GM, Urban said.
'If we do business in Europe, we have to make vehicles that can be recycled,' he said.
A goal of DaimlerChrysler's new policy is that vehicles be 85 percent recyclable in 2002 and 95 percent recyclable in 2005.
Industry sources said Ford also is rewriting its broad recycling guidelines.
GM does not have a broad-based recycling policy but recycles parts in many of its truck and car lines, Urban said.