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Audi working on chemical recycling method for automotive plastics

  • Audi aims to initially test the technical feasibility of chemical recycling of automotive plastics as well as to evaluate the method in terms of its economic and environmental impacts.

Audi has partnered with Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) to launch a pilot project for chemical recycling of automotive plastics. The aim is to feed such mixed plastic fractions back into a resource-conserving circular system.

Many automobile components are made from mixed plastics which have to meet exacting safety, heat resistance and quality requirements. This is why, so far, only petroleum-based materials have been used for manufacturing plastic components for vehicles that are subjected to particularly intensive wear. However, such components cannot be recycled in most cases and pose a big environmental challenge.

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Audi aims to initially test the technical feasibility of chemical recycling and to evaluate the method in terms of its economic and environmental impacts. As a part of the project, Audi provides plastic components that are no longer needed such as fuel tanks, wheel trim parts and radiator grilles to KIT. These plastic components are processed into pyrolysis oil by chemical recycling. The quality of this oil corresponds to that of petroleum products. In the medium run, components made from pyrolysis oil can again be used in automobiles.

Automotive plastic components are processed into pyrolysis oil by chemical recycling.
Automotive plastic components are processed into pyrolysis oil by chemical recycling.

Audi says it is one of the first automobile manufacturers to test the chemical recycling method on automotive plastics. The method helps conserve valuable resources because less primary material is required and in turn, saves energy, costs and is beneficial to the environment. "(Audi) wants to establish smart circular systems in its supply chains and make efficient use of resources," says Marco Philippi, Senior Director Procurement Strategy, Audi.

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The company is planning to gradually increase the proportion of secondary materials in its models. It identifies chemical recycling as an opportunity together with its suppliers to use resources as efficiently as possible and to reduce CO2 emissions in the upstream value chain.

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