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Press Release: DID YOU KNOW THAT CARS ARE THE MOST RECYCLED PRODUCT IN AMERICA? USCAR's Vehicle Recycling Partnership Shares Green Message at 2008 NAIAS

SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Jan. 14, 2008 – In addition to wowing the public with their newest products and concept cars, the U.S. automakers are bringing an educational message to consumers at this year’s North American International Auto Show through the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC’s (USCAR) Vehicle Recycling Partnership LLC (VRP).

The VRP Automotive Recycling Exhibit centers on the theme of “Did you know?”   From that theme, scientists and engineers from Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation – which comprise the VRP – are delivering an impressive environmental message that is based on 16 years of collaborative efforts to increase the recyclability of automobiles and reduce their impact on the environment.

Among the VRP green themes touted at the show are:
Did you know that in the United States...
• End-of-life vehicles are the most recycled consumer product – both in terms of percentage and volume.
• More than 95 percent of all end-of-life vehicles go through a market-driven recycling infrastructure with no added costs or taxes to consumers.
o And more than 84 percent, by weight, of each end-of-life vehicle is recycled.
• Materials processed from end-of-life vehicles go back into making new cars, roads, buildings, consumer products and even garden mulch.

“Most people don’t know these statistics and they’re usually surprised when they find out that 95 percent of end-of-life vehicles in the U.S. go through some form of recycling process,” said Claudia Duranceau, Ford senior research recycling engineer for Emissions Control and Recycling and VRP representative. 

“We’re here to create public awareness of the collaborative efforts among the three U.S. automakers to implement sustainable recycling solutions that keep waste out of landfills, save energy and put materials into reuse,” Duranceau said.

Today, more of the materials recovered from recycled vehicles are reused to make new cars.  And beyond cars, materials recycled from cars are used to make other products including building materials and home products, such as carpet, resilient flooring and patio furniture.

“That’s the unique part about this exhibit; it shows how all these materials are reused,” said Candace Wheeler, General Motors technical fellow and VRP representative. “People have no idea what happens to end-of-life vehicles. Most think they’re sold off to Third World countries or just fall off the face of the earth.”

VRP achievements include developing material selection and design guidelines to optimize vehicle recyclability and partnering with the domestic vehicle dismantling industry to improve the safety and efficiency of vehicle disassembly and materials recovery.  In 1994, the VRP opened the Vehicle Recycling Development Center, where more than 500 vehicles were dismantled to study the dismantling process and develop new ways to design vehicles that improve recyclability.  The VRP also has created training programs on the safe handling of airbags and hybrid batteries in the recycling process.

The VRP, Wheeler adds, has steadily increased the amount of materials recovered during the vehicle recycling process, which now averages around 84 percent of the vehicle by weight.  The group aims to continue narrowing that gap by developing new processes that further support the domestic automotive dismantling and material recycling industries.

For example, the VRP has partnered with public sector research institutions and private entities to optimize the parts recycling processes at dismantlers across the country and continues to improve the materials reclamation process when leftover hulks are shredded. That shredding process reclaims metal materials from roughly 12 to 15 million vehicles – yielding between 15 and 19 million tons of recycled steel alone each year.

Recent advances jointly developed through the VRP are now enhancing processes to reclaim a higher percentage of  the shredding process ‘leftovers’ – more commonly known as shredder residue –  which includes plastics, glass, seat foams, carpet fibers and rubber.

As part of a formal Collaborative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council and the VRP, continue to lead the development of innovative processes to improve the quantity and quality of materials reclaimed from shredder residue.

“Helping the recycling industry better understand the economics of recycling and setting goals and processes to commercialize the collecting and recycling of non-metallic materials have been an important focus in recent years to close that remaining 16 percent gap of what is recycled and what is not,” said Nakia Simon, Chrysler product engineer and VRP representative.

About USCAR and the VRP

Founded in 1992, USCAR LLC is the umbrella organization for collaborative research among Chrysler, Ford and General Motors. The goal of USCAR is to further strengthen the technology base of the domestic auto industry through cooperative research and development.

The Vehicle Recycling Partnership LLC, one of the programs managed through USCAR, addresses shared technological and environmental concerns related to sustainable and environmentally friendly vehicle recycling practices.