In a recent blog article Volvo seeks new suppliers, fresh ideas for greener cars in Automotive News by Douglas Bouldac, Volvo has announced that it is targeting 25% of the plastics used in its vehicles to be made from recycled materials. Many other automotive OEM’s tout this same goal and are also working with their chemical, raw material, and Tier 1 suppliers toward this end. What seemingly differentiates Volvo from the pack is their willingness to invite new partners to innovate with them on recycled materials.
Let’s face it, chemical and raw material supplier cost structures are currently incentivized to sell virgin material. Every pound of recycled plastic that is molded into a part is one less pound of virgin material being produced to cover the cost of their polymerization reactors and overhead. If these companies were serious about recycling would we really find ourselves in our current situation with landfills and oceans overflowing with plastic waste? Bans and regulations seems to be the only way virgin material suppliers will seriously embrace real recycling.
As for Tier 1’s, most have in-house molding capability and our observation has been that these plants are optimized to run virgin materials. Introduce variations in moisture, bulk density, mixed colors, viscosity, etc… and suddenly plant efficiencies plummet. Recycled materials do not run like their virgin counterparts. An experienced manufacturing culture and special equipment is needed to effectively process recycled materials. Smart Tier 1’s have partnered with AGS Technology to process their functional plastic parts using recycled material allowing them to focus on their core products using virgin material.
Volvo’s plan to actively recruit recycling innovators such as AGS Technology is refreshing. Over the last 25 years, AGS has specialized in injection molding recycled plastics. Our unique capability to source, clean, blend, certify, and injection mold plastic regrind directly into a part sets us apart from other companies. AGS Technology acknowledged Volvo’s sustainability plan with a Letter to the Automotive News Editor and is reaching out to Volvo to listen to their needs and see if there is indeed an opportunity to collaborate together on their goal.