Eastman Recycles Car Scraps Back into Automotive Supply Chain

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When automobiles are at the end of their life, as much as 20% of their materials — referred to as automotive shredder residue (ASR) — currently end up in landfills, according to Eastman. Now, the specialty materials company is partnering on a feasibility study in hopes of demonstrating that ASR can be recycled back into automotive parts to further circularity in the automotive supply chain.

The project is a collaboration between Eastman, the US Automotive Materials Partnership (USAMP) and Padnos, an automotive recycler that transforms scrap into reusable resources. Under this initiative, Padnos will use ASR as a sustainable feedstock for Eastman’s molecular recycling process, thus recycling automotive mixed plastic waste back into the supply chain.

USAMP — a subsidiary of the US Council for Automotive Research, or USCAR — says the project could prove the potential to eliminate a “significant fraction” of the five to seven million tons of ASR generated annually in the US from landfills.

The study will also assess how well Eastman’s carbon renewal technology, one of Eastman’s two molecular recycling technologies, breaks down the plastic-rich fraction of ASR into molecular building blocks. By recycling these complex plastics, Eastman can replace fossil-based feedstock and create polymers for use in new automotive applications.

USCAR’s member companies — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — are accelerating their approach to “designing for more sustainable end-of-life solutions,” says Steve Crawford, executive VP and Chief Techology and Sustainability Officer for Eastman. This project “can be a catalyst for circularity within the automotive value stream that addresses both the climate and waste plastic issues,” he says.

Eastman’s molecular recycling technologies are already recycling complex plastic waste at commercial scale now, but “technologies alone won’t build a circular economy,” according to Crawford. “It takes work across the value chain by multiple players who are determined to deliver sustainable solutions.”

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