The global auto industry needs to do a better job of using environmentally friendly plastics, such as those made from plants, a report said. And it lags in using recycled content in its plastic parts, the report added.
The Ecology Center, an advocacy group in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Clean Production Action of Spring Brook, N.Y., said in their Feb. 23 report that Toyota Motor Corp. fared best among the six top-selling carmakers in creating a sustainable plastics program, earning a grade of C.
The center also urged carmakers to phase out vinyl.
The group highlighted plastics because they are becoming more prevalent in cars and because steel and nonferrous metals tend to be recovered from junked vehicles. But most plastics are thrown out, wasting resources, said Jeff Gearhart, an author of the report and campaign director for the Ecology Center.
About 4.3 billion pounds of plastic are used in cars each year in the United States, according to the report. Plastic accounts for 7.5 percent of cars, on average, by weight, the report said.
The center praised Toyota for using a plastic made from sugar cane and corn in a car it sells in Japan. It also commended the automaker for setting measurable goals, such as using 20 percent recycled content or renewable resources for its plastic parts in Japan by 2015.
"However, the fact that the top performer, Toyota, received a C grade means there is still a lot of room for improvement across the board," said Charles Griffith, the Ecology Center's auto project director.
The report noted that Ford Motor Co. used plastics from renewable resources in its Model U concept car.
Honda Motor Co. Ltd., DaimlerChrysler AG and Ford all received D+ grades. Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and General Motors fared worst, both receiving a D.
Gearhart said the U.S.-based companies tended to fare worse, in part, because the U.S. government puts less environmental pressure on manufacturers.
The group brought the report to the Global Plastics Environmental Conference in Atlanta last month, where it received a mixed review from plastics industry officials.
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