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EC Recycling Demands too simplistic


The European Union is becoming increasingly strict in its rules governing recycling in the automobile branch, but there seems to be little or no theoretical foundation for these rules. Antoinette van Schaik concludes this in her PhD thesis on car recycling, which she will defend on 8 December at TU Delft.

Van Schaik finds the EU’s demand of 85 percent recycling far too general. Moreover, the measurement and calculation methods used to calculate the percentage are far too simplistic, making them almost meaningless. These specific conclusions fit well into the general image of the situation found during the research project. ‘There is no sound theoretical foundation for recycling in general, including that of cars,’ says Van Schaik. ‘Much more thorough and in-depth knowledge is needed.’

In an attempt to improve the situation, Van Schaik has introduced the concept of a theoretical model that can be referred to by a car designer attempting to achieve a high recycling capability for his design. During her research Van Schaik studied the processing of 1153 cars at an industrial recycling plant, the largest study of its kind.

Alongside the poor basis for recycling, Van Schaik also found that designers and recyclers of cars still function in two different ‘worlds’. Van Schaik: ‘In general, it can be said that the recycling world and the design world should be closer together so that the entire chain can be optimised. In doing so they should use the theory developed here.’

The research project earned Van Schaik and her supervisor, Prof. Markus Reuter, a place in the European automobile industry’s SLC (Super Light Car) project. As mentioned, this branch of industry is being confronted with ever increasing EU demands on recyclability.

As it stands, the demand is 85 percent, but by 2016, that will have risen to 95 percent. Because of the changing composition of the materials used to build cars however, keeping the recyclability up to standard is becoming a more and more difficult task.

Also, two environmental goals clash here. The use of synthetic materials in cars is driven, among other things, by the demand that cars become lighter and therefore more economical; saving fuel and decreasing carbon dioxide output as a result. Unfortunately this development is having a negative effect on the recyclability.

Maarten van der Sanden | alfa
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