Jonathan Levy, director of member services and plastics division liaison at ISRI focuses on how vehicle dismantlers can create maximum profit from recycling car bumpers.
For the past several years the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) has worked towards developing markets for large auto parts that can be easily removed from scrapped cars and recycled before the auto is crushed or shredded. These materials are most often size reduced and then introduced into the manufacturing process as a specification grade feedstock in the manufacture of new products. As ISRI searched for those auto parts that could easily be removed from an automobile before the shredding process, it made sense to look at plastics automobile bumper covers.
As a first step, ISRI created scrap specifications that describe this material and list the amount of contamination (those items that are not part of the material being traded) along with other information about the material to help facilitate the buying and selling of it. This specification, along with a myriad of other specifications that are used to trade all types of scrap commodities can be found in ISRI’s Scrap Specification Circular (page 41).
At the same time, the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) was working with their members to see the viability of using plastic auto bumper covers as a feedstock for certain application. With ISRI’s specification already developed, ISRI assisted PLASTICs in their project to “field test” our new specification. Should the specification prove to be viable, one of the major hurdles in developing a market would be overcome. The good news is PLASTICS discovered their members can manufacture a plastic pellet based on the ISRI specification. Overall, this means when plastic auto bumper covers are traded using the specification, market demand for this material can be serviced successfully.
While on a technical basis PLASTICS and ISRI found plastic auto bumper covers can be recycled into a specification grade pellet, the economics to do so may be a bit more challenging. Typical recyclers that would come into contact with plastic auto bumper covers may not find it economical to change their processes to remove the bumper from the scrap car. When looking at autos that come into scrap yards that operate large hammermill shredders, these autos often come in stripped of all salvageable parts and are typically crushed prior to shredding. This results in few, if any, auto bumper covers that can be removed prior to shredding. In other instances, recyclers that operate “pick yards” (yards where customers are allowed to remove parts from autos in a self-service model) often do not operate the balers necessary to make transportation of auto bumper covers economical.
These hurdles make development of this market difficult, but not insurmountable. For those recyclers who are interested in developing this market, both PLASTICS and ISRI have identified the challenges and opportunities that exist and some of the solutions to overcome them. Among these solutions is identifying the ability to invest in the appropriate infrastructure that would allow for the efficient collection and transportation of auto bumper covers based on the ISRI specification. And while the ability to add this investment to an existing scrap yard will vary on a host of factors for the individual recycler, those that are able to make such an investment may find a number of reclaimers and other end users that are able to integrate it into their already existing commodity stream.
As the old adage goes, ‘if there is a will, there is a way’. For those interested in participating in this market, there is value in plastic bumpers that could expand and provide benefits to their business model.
To find out more, visit the ISRI website at www.isri.org
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) is the “Voice of the Recycling Industry™.” ISRI represents 1,300 companies in 20 chapters in the U.S. and more than 40 countries that process, broker, and consume scrap commodities, including metals, paper, plastics, glass, rubber, electronics, and textiles. With headquarters in Washington, DC, the Institute provides education, advocacy, safety and compliance training, and promotes public awareness of the vital role recycling plays in the U.S. economy, global trade, the environment and sustainable development. Generating nearly $117 billion annually in U.S. economic activity, the scrap recycling industry provides more than 500 million Americans with good jobs.