It’s almost compulsory nowadays for vehicle components to be recyclable and design teams are going to great lengths to find new ways to be greener, including the use of biodegradable body parts.
Green transport is no longer purely about reducing emissions and purchasing alternative fuels. It begins much earlier than policy stage and fleet managers should be aware of how the car manufacturers they deal with are contributing to a greener world.
The whole process of vehicle manufacture has led companies to act in a more socially responsible manner from the initial production of components to the end of life of a vehicle – all processes are now accountable at legislative level and it is more important for those responsible to be acting in an environmentally-friendly way.
Sounding more like a vegetarian dinner party than factory components, car manufacturers are using products such as soya, flax seed and plant leaves to construct components such as foam door filling and dashboards. Even hemp, better known for its mind altering properties, is being used for upholstery and floor mats.
Here, Fleet News takes a look at how some of the major manufacturers and the motor industry as a whole is taking key decisions and implementing processes with environment issues to the fore.
EVERY major BMW facility has a manager to ensure environmental standards are met. The group claims that energy consumption, managing resources efficiently, eliminating or recycling all forms of waste and preventing pollution are key elements to its environmental policy.
BMW has recently introduced a new waste management and recycling programme designed to reduce the amount of workshop waste that is disposed of in landfill sites to no more than 5% of total waste.
Waste generated by BMW workshops includes numerous by-products such as oils, brake fluid, antifreeze, oil filters, batteries, tyres, contaminated fuel, paints, thinners, cardboard, paper and wood.
The door trim on the 3-series is made from flax and some models have sound insulation made from recycled jeans.
Its environmental strategy also includes a stringent recycling programme for end-of-life vehicles. This follows a ‘design for recycling’ programme which means every process from the initial design of the vehicle to its final resting place is assessed for its environmental impact.
KIA adopts a holistic approach to the development of environmentally-friendly vehicles with the adoption of a four-step cycle starting with the development of a vehicle, which includes recyclable materials and design parts.
Efforts are made to reduce the amount of waste from the production process and recycle them, there is a recycling system for used parts and the environmental aspects of disposal are also tackled with recycling.
Kia produced an environmental and social report earlier this year. It states: ‘We continuously study various recycling technologies on discarded car parts and utilise them in new car manufacturing.
‘Plastic and rubber parts that can easily be disassembled have become a fundamental area of research for us and we have developed paint film removal technology allowing for recycling of coated bumpers. We are now developing a technology to segregate large plastic parts by material, such as dashboards, in which many different kinds of material are used.’
AS part of its environmental commitment, Ford has developed a complete vehicle recycling programme, including design-for-recycling guidelines, increased use of recycled material and reducing the use of hazardous materials. The group’s ultimate aim is to build vehicles that will be almost totally recyclable.
The Ford Mondeo is one example where the manufacturer is using recyclable materials as the car’s interior door panelling is made from kenaf – a natural fibre related to cotton and okra grown in Bangladesh.
Ford’s European products used 308 different vehicle parts made from recyclable sources in 2004, an increase of 50% since 1999.
The Ford Motor Company has also signed an agreement with Cartakeback Ltd to provide customers of its brands sold in the UK – Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Aston Martin and Mazda – with a free ‘takeback’ service for end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) from January 1, 2007.
These facilities will be available to the last owner of a qualifying vehicle that has reached the end of its life.
MAZDA has an environmental policy called the Mazda Global Environmental Charter which tackles issues such as a new eco-friendly paint system and a bumper recycling programme.
All Mazda plants in Japan operate a ‘three-layer wet paint system’ which the group claims reduces organic compounds and carbon dioxide emissions from the paint process.
The paint system combines the primer, base and final coats in one painting process which has lowered CO2 emissions that occur during basecoat painting at Mazda’s plants in Japan by 8.8 tons in a year.
Mazda updated the charter earlier this year and has already attained the environmental certification for management systems, ISO14001, for all its main production bases worldwide. It is now looking at introducing a separate certification system for its smaller offices, group companies and suppliers.
THE new Volkswagen Fox will be launched next year with a new organic fibre roof made from Curaua fibres found in the Bromelia plant native to Brazil, where the car is built.
The plant is 100% organic and 100% recyclable and by using it in the interior of the Fox, Volkswagen is also co-operating with the Brazilian research and development programme ‘Poverty and Environment of the Amazon’.
Additional recyclable materials are used on the Volkswagen range including cotton-fibre floor insulation and cotton carpet backing.
Volkswagen views its environmental responsibilities as a cyclical operation with vehicle production and disposal processes being as eco-friendly as actual product use.
The group’s production plants around the world are continuously trying to reduce the amount of water used for production. Its Mexican plan is aiming to cut the intake of freshwater by up to 30% over the next three years and across Europe Volkswagen is making extensive use of rainwater.
Waste to landfill has been reduced through several initiatives including a paper and waste recycling scheme in plants and offices. All shredded materials, including plastics, rubber and textiles are also re-used.
VAUXHALL’S design for recycling strategy focuses on product responsibility. It has two aims – decreasing the waste produced during vehicle production and then further reducing waste at the end of a vehicle’s life.
Every design team within Vauxhall’s parent company, General Motors, must follow the group’s ‘design for recycling’ guidelines, one of which states that recyclable materials must fulfil all the same technical specifications and be produced at a low cost.
More than 30,000 tons of recyclable materials were used by Vauxhall and Opel in the production of new vehicles in 2001.
One of Vauxhall’s recycling targets is to increase the quantity of recyclable plastics used, so that at least 20% of a vehicle’s plastic components are sourced from recycled material.
Vauxhall set several corporate environmental targets in 2001 for its Luton plant up to 2005. These include reducing CO2 emissions from site-based energy use by 5.7%, reducing water consumption by 2.1%, reducing water to landfill by 8.1% and stabilising volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from car painting.
ABOUT 85% by weight of a Volvo car is recyclable, with 26% comprising plastics and other non-metallic materials. Volvo already uses renewable materials from almost 100 vegetable-based components, mostly sound absorption blocks or mats made of cotton fibres.
A number of door panels and head linings are also based on renewable sources and Volvo believes that switching even more to materials based on bio-products could contribute to reducing global use of crude oil for plastics by about 550,000 barrels annually by 2020.
A Volvo spokesman said: ‘We are accelerating into the fast lane of the green automotive revolution by taking key steps today towards seeing drivers and passengers sitting in Volvo cars with ‘hard’ components such as dashboards and ceilings made of flax and cellulose rather than petroleum-based plastics, and enjoying comfortable seats using natural fibre and soya-based foam fillings.’
After two years of development, Volvo Cars has started pilot production of a load floor tray that replaces traditional polyester with 100% biodegradable flax. Easy to break down and compost, the cellulose tray also gives better noise reduction qualities.
A Volvo spokesman added: ‘If Volvo’s designers have their way, one day in the future you will be getting into a Volvo where much of the interior is literally borrowed from nature utilising fabrics, floor mats and other materials based on renewable and sustainable sources such as hemp, rapeseed and soya.’
SMMT praise for car companies
CAR firms are slashing the amount of energy and waste produced in vehicle manufacture. A distinct reduction in the amount of waste going to landfill in recent years is being measured alongside a big decrease in the amount of energy used to produce vehicles.
Research by the Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders (SMMT) has shown that the motor industry is making real progress in becoming more sustainable.
The industry body has produced its sixth annual sustainability report – Towards Sustainability 2005 – which outlines the industry’s economic goals.
The report states: ‘Less energy is now being used to produce each vehicle. Since 2001, the figure has almost halved at production sites, from 4.3 to 2.5 megawatts per hour.
‘In the same period, water use has dropped from 6.2 to 3.4 cubic metres per vehicle.
The motor industry is also improving productivity and streamlining its processes, which means less waste is created for landfill. In 2004, 70% less waste was produced per vehicle than in 2001.
Christopher Macgowan, chief executive of the SMMT, added: ‘As well as making real progress towards sustainable mobility, it is important that we are absolutely transparent about where we are succeeding and where improvements have to be made.’