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Turning waste plastic into premium car parts

Use of recycled plastic for incidental parts in car production is nothing new.

But Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is trialling a new process that turns waste plastic into vehicle parts that can still meet high-end safety and quality requirements - anything from structural components to interior trim for luxury models.

Working in conjunction with chemical company BASF, JLR is part of a pilot project called ChemCycling that upcycles domestic waste plastic, otherwise destined for landfill or incinerators, into a new high-quality material.

The waste plastic is transformed to pyrolysis oil using a thermochemical process.

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This secondary raw material is then fed into BASF's production chain as a replacement for fossil resources; ultimately producing a new premium grade that replicates the high quality and performance of "virgin" plastics.

Importantly, it can be tempered and coloured making it suitable for next-generation dashboards and exterior surfaces.

JLR and BASF are currently testing the pilot phase material in a Jaguar I-Pace prototype front-end carrier overmoulding, to verify it meets the same safety requirements of the existing original part.

Pending the outcome of the trials and progression in taking chemical recycling to market readiness, adoption of the new premium material would mean JLR could use domestically derived recycled plastic throughout its cars without any compromise to quality or safety performance.

"Plastics are vital to car manufacturing and have proven benefits during their use phase; however, plastic waste remains a major global challenge," says Chris Brown, senior sustainability manager at JLR.

Solving this issue requires innovation and joined-up thinking between regulators, manufacturers and suppliers.

Other JLR recycling projects include a collaboration with Kvadrat to offer alternative seat-trim options on high-end models. The material, available initially on the Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Evoque, combines a durable New Zealand Merino wool blend with a technical suedecloth that is made from 53 recycled plastic bottles per vehicle.