Essential information for end of life vehicle dismantling, depollution and recycling


Sustainability: A Beginner’s Guide Part 2 – “We’re going to have to science the s*** out of this one”

David Parker, Circular Economy Specialist at Oakdene Hollins, a research and consulting company advising on sustainability and the circular economy, uses the ideas of Dr Walter Stahel to provide part two of a guide to sustainability and how the circular economy is one way this can be achieved.


Sustainability - a beginner’s guide part two - going to have to science f
David Parker

Left for dead on Mars, Matt Damon’s in a spot of trouble. Short on just about everything, he makes Ellen’s lot look pretty cosy (see Part 1).  Hope is not a viable option, and with this realisation comes a sense of clarity and purpose.  He utters the totemic line of the sub-title and in the process foreshadows our task ahead.

Matt’s ingenuity and resolve – poor Hollywood chemistry and physics aside – are now required but need direction.  In Part 1, we considered the meaning of sustainability, alerted ourselves to the opportunities for greenwashing this word affords and noted the need for responsibility for action close to home.  Turning to a guiding light, we learnt of Walter Stahel; his ideas are the focus of this article.

Walter’s big idea was that we shouldn’t consider materials and products as a stream, welling up, flowing past us – briefly – and disappearing back into the ground. Instead, everything we have should be thought of as from a lake, an inventory to be piped out, used and re-used and – if necessary – returned to the lake.  It’s a simple shift in perspective, and he did a lot of analysis to demonstrate that the idea hung together economically, environmentally and socially. 

The Stahel idea is the backbone of the MacArthur mission, but Walter started by being very focused on product re-use and remanufacturing as deliverers of performance: lower energy and materials use, drivers of profitability, conservers of critical materials and creators of valuable jobs.  Recycling was lower on his list; his and other analysis bears this out: much of recycling just about breaks even energy-wise and is not nearly as effective at keeping materials in the loop and, for good measure, jobs in recycling are not that much fun in truth.

So, focusing on products first off gets us in the performance frame of mind and maximises our chances of hitting the right buttons.  But we need to follow through with recycling and materials-oriented tactics too.  And do not ignore the over-riding need to eliminate waste, dematerialise products and services and extend product lives: quite a challenge but do-able.

How, then, do we operationalise this?  This is where the science comes in (and there’s more in Part 3), giving us a better grip on those loops.  Some bright thinkers have freed their inner Damon to provide us with a way in.  Not only can we close them but we can also make them tighter, that is, shorten the circular supply chains to eliminate anything which makes tracking customers, products and materials harder; make them slower, that is, to lengthen the time products are in use (the whole point of remanufacturing); and make them narrower, that is, using resource efficiency measures requiring less material and energy to create and support products and services or give them more uptime.  So, by using a product for two lifetimes and using half the energy and materials to support it, we’ve already reduced our lifetime impact by a factor of four.

You can see examples of these tactics at work across many sectors, but particularly in automotive:

  • Fleet management practices tighten the circularity loop by consolidating multiple potential owners down to one.
  • Predictive maintenance such as that undertaken by tyre manufacturer Michelin allows for slower product cycles through improved care and maintenance schemes.
  • At their facility in Choisy-Le-Rois, Renault remanufactures their components both slowing product life cycles and narrowing the resource use of their repair and maintenance operations.

These are great moves, but they’re still some way from practical steps you and I should take, and that will be the topic of Part 3 where we consider the shape of the future and practical actions on sustainability.

To find out more from Oakdene Hollins, visit

SYNETIQ April 2023 M

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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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e2e Total Loss Vehicle Management [e2e] is the UK’s only salvage and automotive recycling network with nationwide, environmentally compliant sites delivering performance resilience and service reliability to the insurance and fleet markets.  The network’s online salvage auction drives strong salvage resale values and faster sales.  e2e’s salvage clients have access to the network’s stocks of over 5 million quality graded, warranty assured reclaimed parts. 

The power of the network model means e2e has the ability to influence industry standards and is committed to continually raising the bar whilst redefining the role and perceived value of the salvage operator.  Network members adhere to robust service level agreements, against which they are audited, in order to ensure performance consistency and a market leading customer experience.  

The salvage and recycling operating environment is evolving rapidly, and e2e is anticipating, listening and responding to changing market needs.  Regulatory compliance, ESG, reclaimed parts, customer experience, EVs, new vehicle technologies, data and reputation risk are just some of many considerations linked to the procurement of salvage services.  e2e will drive further added value to clients and members through the adoption and application of emerging technologies, continuing to differentiate its proposition and position salvage services as a professional partnership. 

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