Currently, about 24 per cent of the vehicle ends up as automotive shredder residue (ASR), which includes materials such as plastics, adhesives, rubber, glass, dirt and foam. Current automotive direction is to include more plastics in vehicles to reduce weight and increase fuel economy, and auto manufacturers are helping the recycling process by marking plastic parts with the type of material they are made of so they can be sorted easier. Other parts, such as rubber, can be separated out and reused in a different form. For example, Ford is making engine gaskets out of shredded tires for several of its vehicles.

Other materials, such as glues, resins and foams may not be as easily recyclable but they can be used as fuel sources to help power recycling facilities and research is ongoing to determine how to best utilize these and other materials.

Looking at new vehicles, manufacturers are increasingly finding new ways of incorporating recycled materials into their vehicles. Bamboo, a quic- growing grass, is used by several as reinforcement in moulded underbody panels. This reduces the amount of petroleum needed to manufacture plastics. Recently, I saw how Ford’s new Focus Electric car will have seat material manufactured from recycled plastic water bottles. Not only was this a good use of a product often sent to the landfill, the seat material looked great and felt very luxurious. You would never guess it was derived from a plastic bottle!

Other Ford recycling initiatives include valve covers on the Fusion, Escape, Mustang and F150 made of 100 per cent recycled carpet. The Ecolon nylon resin made from the carpets results in a reduction of more than 430,000 gallons of oil used, not to mention the carpet that doesn’t go to the land fill. Another example is the 2012 Focus, which will have carpet and sound deadening material manufactured from used clothing.

These examples are from one manufacturer. The others are using recycled materials too, to both lower production costs and protect our environment. There is a social consciousness in the automotive industry, and recycling is one part of it.