Different Methods Used in The Automotive Industry to Achieve Zero Waste


The expansion of the automotive industry, largely caused by globalisation, has brought about an environmental burden, impacting other industries that are striving towards zero waste. The makeup of vehicles has changed considerably over the years, with the concentration of metals declining, but cars remain major polluters, emitting the deadliest toxins within our breathing zone.

The automotive industry requires sustainable development in its supply chain management, which can be achieved by introducing circular economy concepts to manage and reduce the generated waste. This way, it can save energy, conserve natural resources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

The waste produced in the automotive industry is a concern for managers to deal with. Imperfect production can be addressed by transitioning towards the circular economy; not only are results outstanding, but it’s also possible to achieve waste management with a minimum cost of production. Circularity requires innovation, partnerships, and data transparency to align on a shared vision of the environment of the future. In some cases, recycling can be considered zero waste. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that zero waste encompasses the entire lifecycle of a product, so automakers should work towards eliminating waste at all stages of the chain. 

Automotive manufacturers and suppliers are looking for innovative solutions in terms of technology, which could help lay the groundwork for a new economy. If you’re curious to know what trends impacting the industry are, please continue reading. 

white sedan on road during daytime

What Are the Most Effective Ways to Reduce the Volume of Waste Materials? 

EV Battery Recycling

European Member States have banned petrol and diesel cars in an effort to combat climate change and speed up the transition towards electric vehicles. Vehicles currently account for 15% of carbon dioxide emissions, and automotive manufacturers are required to cut emissions from new cars by 100%. EVs create a lower carbon footprint over the course of their lifetime as compared to regular vehicles, which depend on internal combustion engines, yet electricity grids are still powered by fossil fuels, and EVs depend on that energy to get charged. Equally, the mining of metals used in EV batteries is an energy-intensive process, so they can’t be dumped into the landfill and buried. 

Repurposing old batteries is the ideal solution, as the materials are hard, if not impossible, to source, so recycling guarantees precious materials are fed back into the supply chain. To separate the various elements that make up the battery, it’s cut into shreds, and the resulting materials are filtered based on size and composition at dedicated facilities. The recycling process doesn’t require any chemicals, and neither does it produce emissions, therefore, enhancing the sustainability of industry operations. There’s an urgent need for nickel, often overlooked as the focus, lithium, and cobalt (to a lesser extent).  

Chemical Waste Recycling

The biggest composition of hazardous waste is produced in repair shops, which directly and indirectly impacts drinking water supplies. Types of wastes include but aren’t limited to degreasing solvents, petroleum products, battery electrolytes, metals, paints, and thinners. Heavily contaminated materials must be sent to a hazardous waste treatment facility so that the waste isn’t diverted to the landfills. Hazardous waste reclamation can help avoid extreme events, conserve scarce natural resources, and reduce dependence on critical raw materials and energy. Even if reducing the amount of chemical waste and recycling are the most desirable options, at times, it’s not possible. In that instance, disposal must be carried out appropriately.  

Glass Recycling 

Glass provides drivers and passengers with an undistorted view of the surroundings, keeping the interior cool on hot, sunny days. Besides the manufacturing of windscreens, glass is used to make side windows and rear windows. The glass used in vehicles isn’t the same as the glass used for home windows; it’s explicitly designed to withstand heavy impact during accidents and protect people from getting injured. Once a luxury, glass is now a common commodity. The most straightforward way of making use of waste glass is to return it to its original purpose. Auto glass can be salvaged, cleaned, cut, and then placed back in service. 

For manufacturers in the automotive sector, reducing waste is the environmental impact of the production process is the number one priority. Managing and disposing of glass waste used to be a logistical nightmare, but not anymore. With a glass cutter, it’s possible to handle considerable volumes of waste, which becomes a valuable, recyclable commodity. Mil-tek has different offices in the UK, so don’t hesitate to reach out in case you need assistance immediately. Glass that’s crushed or imploded is referred to as glass cullet. This glass cullet can be used in various industries, melted down into bottles, jars, and vases, to name a few. 

Training Is a Key Factor for Successful Business Recycling 

Technology advancements within the automotive industry demand ongoing training, so it’s crucial for companies to ensure staff acquire much-needed skills and knowledge. To streamline this process, it’s recommended to combine lectures with discussions and practical demonstrations wherever possible. The limitations and weaknesses of community involvement must be highlighted and, above all, understood by participants. Employees who receive training are more likely to become active, helping the business reduce its environmental footprint, increase recycling rates, and eliminate associated waste expenses. Vehicles maintain a recycling rate of roughly 100%, so their components must be reused or recycled when possible. For example, separation technologies are deployed to segregate mixed ferrous and non-ferrous metals into streams of pure materials. 

Wrapping It Up 

The transition to zero waste will disrupt the entire automotive supply chain. Even if first movers struggle with increased competition, there are numerous opportunities to take advantage of, including the creation and maintenance of the corresponding infrastructure. Discarded materials become resources that are recycled back into the marketplace to be used again. Still, zero waste encompasses more than eliminating waste via recycling – it focuses on restructuring distribution and production. Corporations must explore circular economy strategies to improve the sustainability of their products. Since no comprehensive framework exists for the automotive industry, it’s imperative to develop your own plan.