Published May 2002
About 15 million passenger cars and light commercial vehicles reach the end of their useful life every in Western Europe, and each one contains over 100 kg of plastics. To date, very little of that plastic has been recovered, but this is about to change.
Driven primarily by European Union legislation, dismantling of so-called end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) will rise from around 3 million today to around 5 million in 2005 and to nearly 15 million in 2015. Concurrently, the amount of plastic dismantled per ELV will triple from 15 kg in 2005 to 45 kg in 2015.
By 2015, major plastics dismantled from ELVs will amount to 677 kilotonnes. This is about one-third of the automotive-sector demand for these same plastics1. At a notional unit cost of €1,000/tonne, plastics recycling in the automotive sector would be a €70-million business in 2005 and a €700-million business in 2015.
Polyurethane (PU) will be the largest single plastic dismantled, followed by PP and HDPE. For PU, HDPE and PMMA, dismantled supply will be amount to over 40% of automotive sector demand in 2015. For the other four plastics covered - ABS, PC, PP and PVC - dismantled supply will be around 20% of sector demand.
Four plastics producers are most sensible to the coming wave of dismantling: Dow, BASF, Huntsman and Bayer. Moderately sensible are Atofina, Degussa-Hüls, GE and Borealis. In time, the junkyard business of today will be replaced by large, corporate dismantling factories. Dismantling will move from a spare-parts to a raw-materials business.