Bumper Crop: Mazda Harvests Organs Of Old Cars

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Old cars, euphemistically known as “end-of-life vehicles” or ELVs are turning into a menace. It’s because of the increased used of new materials, also known as plastics. Whereas the scrap of older cars was welcome fodder for the furnaces of steel and cast iron makers around the world, the plastic piles up on landfills, or is burned. Mazda says it has “become the world’s first automaker to successfully recycle scrapped bumpers from end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) into raw material for new vehicle bumpers.”

The new technology was inaugurated on August 21, 2011 and is initially being used to make rear bumpers for the Mazda Biante minivan. Before, if ELV bumpers didn’t land on landfills, they were processed into automobile shredder residue (ASR) and incinerated to recover heat energy, a process equally euphemistically called “thermal recycling.”

Mazda got into the bumper recycling business when it began processing damaged bumpers collected from in-use vehicles through its dealer network in Japan. In the 1990s,Mazda began designing bumpers to be easily recyclable. Now finally, the cost of recycling is less than the cost of purchasing new plastic. Bumpers make the biggest part of the automobile shredder residue.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Bolhuijo Bolhuijo on Aug 25, 2011

    Entire bumper covers as pictured are commonly found along the road here in the SF bay area. Is there a bounty on 'em?

  • Morea Morea on Aug 25, 2011

    Mr Schmitt, a clarification please. Does the Mazda press release specifically say that the polymers will be recycled into new bumpers, or just that the polymer will be recycled? Injection molding of polyethylene to make bumpers is somewhat tricky and best done with virgin PE with a carefully controlled molecular mass distribution and well controlled additive concentrations. Recycled polymer does not have these characteristics. Typically, polyolefins are downgraded to things like carpet or upholstery fibers, or park benches, when they are recycled. If they are making new bumpers our of old bumpers that is significant and not just a greenwashing press release.

    • See 2 previous
    • Type57SC Type57SC on Aug 28, 2011

      As long as they sorted the TPO, TPU and RIM fascias, and stick with the painted ones they should be alright with about 5% regrind from the non-painted pellets.

  • Grg I am not sure that this would hold up in snow country. It used to be that people in snow country would not be caught dead in a white car. Now that white cars have become popular in the north, I can't tell you how many times I have seen white cars driving in the snow without lights. Almost all cars are less visible in a snow storm, or for that matter, rain storm, without lights. White ones become nearly invisible.
  • Douglas I have a 2018 BMW 740e PHEV, and love it. It has a modest electric only range compared to newer PHEV's (about 18 miles), but that gets me to the office and back each day. It has a small gas tank to make room for the battery, so only holds about 11 gallons. I easily go 600 or more miles per tank. I love it, and being able to take long road trips without having to plug in (it just operates like a regular Hybrid if you never plug it in). It charges in 75 minutes in my garage from a Level 2 charger I bought on Amazon for $350. Had an electrician add a dryer outlet beside the breaker box. It's the best of both worlds and I would definitely want a PHEV for my next car. 104,000 miles and ZERO problems with the powertrain components (so far).
  • Panther Platform I had a 98 Lincoln Mark VIII so I have a soft spot for this. The Mark VIII styling was not appreciated by all.
  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...