Technological watch

‘Interest and opportunity' for an automotive circular economy

Automotive suppliers can reach out to their members of Congress and research and development groups to engage on sustainability goals as the industry moves toward a circular economy.

"With the infrastructure package … and the goals of the [Joe Biden] presidential administration in this space, there's a lot of interest and opportunity in automotive, I think more than ever," Gina Oliver, senior director of the American Chemistry Council's automotive plastics division, said during Plastics News' Plastics in Automotive virtual conference on May 27.

ACC has met with more than 30 congressional offices and is "advocating strongly … for R&D and federal funding that is going to help enable sustainable automotive solutions," Oliver said, adding that it is seeing broad support from Congress.

"They're really interested in knowing what we're doing in this space and how they can help us," she said. "They want the low carbon future to be more circular. … They're very eager, on both sides of the aisle … [in] supporting solutions that are sustainable," like nationwide charging infrastructure, pushing the industry toward electric battery manufacturing.

While ACC can help suppliers find direction in where to look for collaborations and R&D funding for circularity efforts, it also encourages suppliers to reach out to other groups and start conversations.

The U.S. Department of Energy's REMADE program has provided about $43 million for U.S. manufacturers to increase the recovery, reuse and remaking of manufacturing of plastics and other materials.

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation is funding projects for fiber-reinforced plastic composites and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste has committed to invest $1.5 billion toward solutions to help recover and create value from plastic waste.

"There's much work to be done and the automotive industry and its material suppliers will continue to need more solutions to achieve circularity," Oliver said.

A circular economy would present the U.S. and automotive industry with a "significant business opportunity" of about $4.5 trillion by the year 2030 — $400 billion to $600 billion of which could go to automotive industry and suppliers, she said.

Publication date: 06/07/2021

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Last update: 2020-07-14