Mike Stevens | Aug 31, 2011

Mazda is closing the loop on its manufacturing with an industry first: an automated process of stripping and breaking down bumpers from end-of-life Mazda vehicles, and remoulding them into bumpers for its new cars.

Mazda's newly-developed 'crusher' literally crushes the old bumper, its sorting mechanisms removing paint and metal parts in the process. The end result is raw plastic resin pellets, which are then mixed with fresh materials to make new bumpers.

The new technology is no small thing. Previously, bumper recycling was a slow and labour-intensive process: metal parts and rubber parts had to be removed by hand, and most of the bumper was incinerated to recover heat energy (a process known as thermal recycling).

The process is helped by an initiative launched at Mazda in the 1990s, with bumpers designed to be more easily recycled. Now, more than a decade later, the number of 'end-of-life' Mazda vehicles is significant enough to make the new recycling system feasable.

Mazda’s initiative is part of a global effort by carmakers to recycle more of the materials used in car production, and to reduce landfill from scrapped cars and components.

In Europe, it is driven by legislation dating back to 2002 which requires carmakers to reduce the use of hazardous substances and increase the use of recycled materials in vehicle production.

The target is that by 2015 in Europe, only five percent of the car be landfilled. On a take-back system paid for by carmakers, it also makes manufacturers responsible for the correct disposal of end-of-life vehicles (ELV).

While Europe is leading, tough recycling laws are extending to other jurisdictions: Japan, Korea and the many US states are increasingly making manufacturers responsible for the products they produce, from factory to end-of-life.

For its initiative, Mazda is collecting bumpers from end-of-life Mazda vehicles in the Hiroshima area - where its head office is located - with the recycled plastic comprising approximately 10 percent of each new bumper produced.

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