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How Automakers Use Recycled Materials In Car Manufacturing

Manufacturers  ·  November 24, 2020

How Automakers Use Recycled Materials In Car Manufacturing

Growing up, we learn the three golden elements of sustainability: reduce, reuse, and recycle. While we have implemented these rules in different environments and settings, we have overlooked industries pushing for a much sustainable society.

The automotive sector is one of the industries whose sustainability efforts, particularly recycling, are overlooked by many. Not us, at, though, such noble efforts won’t escape our radar. This article will talk about the various ways automotive companies are integrating recycled materials in their manufacturing processes.

Car manufacturers using recycled materials


Chrysler's Jeep Grand Cherokee uses recycled polyurethane foam plastic on its seats instead of soy that most cars use. The dash and controls are also made of recycled plastics, and so are the wheel liners of the Jeep Wrangler.


Ever a trendsetter, Toyota recycles plastics to produce different car components. 20% of plastics used in Toyota models are either obtained from plant materials or reformulated plastic. The seats of the Prius model by Toyota are made of plastic that is obtained from plants. According to the automaker, 60% of the Prius' internal parts are also made from products of plant materials.


Renault is another automaker that has recently made the switch to using recycled materials. In November last year, the company revealed that its new Zoe electric vehicle would feature 100% recycled materials. Renault announced that recycled yarn would be used to make door fittings, seat covers, dashboard covers, and gear lever brackets.


Ford uses recycled plastic for the upholstery of several of its models. The seat fabric of Ford Focus, for instance, is built from 22 plastic bottles. In the UK market, Ford recycles damaged bumpers to make new ones. Old Coke bottles are used to create the interior of the hybrid Ford Fusion Energi. 


The Acura model's seat fabrics are made from reformulated plastic. In the North American region, Honda plants also recycle plastics from bumpers before using the resulting product to make mud and splash guards. The bumpers aren't the only auto parts that can be recycled though. The majority of the parts of a Honda car can actually be recycled. Even more impressive is that all Honda models are grouped in the 'green' category.

General Motors

The US-based car manufacturer reformulates bottles and plastic caps to become air deflectors. GM's Fort Wayne plant in Indiana also recycles plastic caps to make radiator shrouds for the GMC Sierras. Likewise, the engines of the Chevrolet Equinox feature covers made from recycled plastics.


This Japanese automaker removes plastic fibres from bottles and recycles them to be used as the primary component in dashboard sound insulation layers. Nissan also recycles bumpers from its old cars to make bumpers for the new models. Some parts of the Nissan Leaf are also made from recycled soda plastic bottles.

Luxury car manufacturers 

Over the years, car manufacturers such as Jaguar, Mercedes, and Tesla have used high-end leather material on places like the dashboard and car seats. Although this has helped make their cars distinct from others, it hasn't been good for the environment. 

Today, the manufacturers have adopted a better approach of using more environmentally friendly materials such as vegan leather and polyester materials. These materials offer the same prestigious looks while being more sustainable.

Why are automakers shifting to recycled materials?

According to research firm GlobalData, automakers are now moving to incorporate recycled materials because of a larger societal movement. The industry is one of the biggest contributors to environmental deterioration – from the impact of producing vehicles, to their toxic emissions, and to the waste materials that they turn into at the end of their serviceable life. Recycling materials and reducing waste are the least that the automakers can do. 

Also, with the growing prominence of ride-sharing and car-sharing services, there’s a crucial concern about the hygiene issue as more and more people are choosing to rent and share vehicles. For this reason, car manufacturers have resorted to adopting car interiors that best cater to the multi-user environment.

Which car components can be recycled and reused?

Car components that need little work before becoming usable are usually collected and then recycled. A vehicle recycler ensures the recycling process is done inside out. Materials that are not ideal for recycling are disposed of.

The frequently recycled car parts are scrap metals from handles and rims and lead from car batteries.  

Cars that are written off or involved in collisions can still have parts that work. Wreckers and dismantlers pull cars apart and obtain parts that can be put into use again. Some of the most common reusable car parts are headlights, taillights, seats, exhaust system parts, mirrors, engines and their components, transmission system, and wheels. 

How are recycled plastics used in car manufacturing?

Currently, recycled plastics are used in bumpers, sound-insulating and protective covers, interior lining, and carpets. Plastics account for up to half of the mass of any modern car today.

Carmakers are still studying ways to make more recycled plastic viable for use in other car parts. Despite this encouraging progress so far, more needs to be done to realise an automotive sector that widely incorporates recycled plastics. 

What challenges are in the way of the automakers’ material recycling efforts?

The primary challenge facing automakers in recycling materials is the high cost of the methodology and equipment needed to recycle. The recycling process is also cost-ineffective as it’s much cheaper to buy and use new plastics than it is to recycle them. However, this is where sincere intentions and commitment come in. Monetary cost should not be construed as equivalent to environmental cost.

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