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Challenges and Alternatives to Plastics Recycling in the Automotive Sector

Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset, Windsor, ON N9B 3P4, Canada
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Materials 2014, 7(8), 5883-5902; https://doi.org/10.3390/ma7085883
Received: 13 June 2014 / Revised: 5 August 2014 / Accepted: 11 August 2014 / Published: 15 August 2014
Plastics are increasingly a preferred material choice in designing and developing complex, consumer products, such as automobiles, because they are mouldable, lightweight, and are often perceived to be highly recyclable materials. However, actually recycling the heterogeneous plastics used in such durable items is challenging, and presents very different scenarios to how simple products, such as water bottles, are recovered via curbside or container recycling initiatives. While the technology exists to recycle plastics, their feasibility to do so from high level consumer or industrial applications is bounded by technological and economical restraints. Obstacles include the lack of market for recyclates, and the lack of cost efficient recovery infrastructures or processes. Furthermore, there is a knowledge gap between manufacturers, consumers, and end-of-life facility operators. For these reasons, end-of-life plastics are more likely to end up down-cycled, or as shredder residue and then landfilled. This paper reviews these challenges and several alternatives to recycling plastics in order to broaden the mindset surrounding plastics recycling to improve their sustainability. The paper focuses on the automotive sector for examples, but discussion can be applied to a wide range of plastic components from similarly complex products. View Full-Text
Keywords: end-of-life vehicles; plastics recycling; waste management; automobile; energy recovery; light-weighting; renewable plastics; ecodesign; shredder residue; environmental impact end-of-life vehicles; plastics recycling; waste management; automobile; energy recovery; light-weighting; renewable plastics; ecodesign; shredder residue; environmental impact
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Miller, L.; Soulliere, K.; Sawyer-Beaulieu, S.; Tseng, S.; Tam, E. Challenges and Alternatives to Plastics Recycling in the Automotive Sector. Materials 2014, 7, 5883-5902.

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