Naturally, automotive manufacturing requires a high volume of materials. To protect the earth's resources, Daimler turns to recyclates. For that reason, this issue is also central in our Design for Environment. Since 2014, even the smallest series parts have contributed to environmentally sound production.
Recyclates are recycled plastics that come in whole or in part from processed production waste or old materials. Thanks to lower volumes of raw materials and their processing, along with transport, we can reduce CO₂ emissions and costs. Previously, production at Mercedes-Benz replaced only larger parts, such as wheel arch covers, with recyclates. It was high time, then, for smaller parts to make the change, thought Boze Mrsic and Alexandra Krieger, employees in R&D for Mercedes-Benz Cars. The result was a reduction of about 1,000 tons of CO₂ per year.
Ms. Krieger, Mr. Mrsic, in the last four years you worked on making small parts from recyclates, among other things. First of all, what are "small parts"?
We define small parts primarily as connecting elements, such as screws or nuts, along with small plastic parts such as cable clips, other clips and so on.
What is the result of the change?
By making certain small parts with recyclates, Daimler can now reduce its CO₂ emissions by nearly 1,000 tons a year. That's a big step in environmental protection. What's more, switching to the new, environmentally responsible manufacturing process has reduced our parts costs by up to 20 percent.
That's a great accomplishment and it sounds like a major project. How did you approach it?
First we conducted a feasibility study, which had a positive result. Then we got approval from the specialist units. We first launched a pilot project with the most promising small parts in terms of switching to recyclates. We chose two plastic nuts that we were able to include in the series production under Daimler's specifications following extensive material and function tests. After the successful pilot, we began to switch another 17 small parts from the product groups of line clips (for brake lines and A/C hoses), plastic nuts and jacking brackets.
What was your biggest challenge?
The challenge was to ensure that vehicle production was not compromised in any way, and that we met the defined Daimler quality. To this end, before series production we also had the quality of our recyclates confirmed by an external organization. We also marked all small parts made from recyclates with a punch hole so that it could be seen throughout production that these were recyclates. For each part that we converted, we approved both materials, meaning original and recyclate, so that we always had a backup solution.
What model series use the small parts made from recyclates?
All Mercedes-Benz vehicles series use them. Precisely because all models use them, we can achieve such great results with regard to our CO₂ emissions and parts costs.
If these parts are used in all model series, it sounds like the project has come to a successful conclusion. Or is there more to come?
Yes, we've successfully completed the project. However, we and our suppliers are always working on how to make other parts for series using recyclates, in order to protect the environment. For instance, when looking at new concepts, we look to see if the plastics can be made from recyclates.