IARC: Demands for more reuse and recycling

ICM spoke to Klaus Hauschulte, CEO of Scholz Recycling GmbH, and asked him what he intends to report on at the IARC 2019.

Mr Hauschulte, at the IARC 2019 you will be talking on the subject of “Demands for more Reuse and Recycling”. How important is the topic of reuse for your company?
As experts for driving the circular economy via recycling and as part of our Vision 2022, electric mobility and the increasing volume of batteries are topics of the future that we at Scholz Recycling want to discuss. Reuse is always preferable to recycling. That’s not only important in legal terms, but ecologically as well. Particularly batteries, lubricants and spare parts can already be potentially reused and for that reason we are attempting to improve recycling routes in collaboration with our partners. An important point, however, is that we handle wastes in a proper manner, even before they are reused.

Is reuse therefore also a potentially viable business for end-of-life vehicle recyclers because recycling is becoming less lucrative?
Reuse is definitely an important aspect for car recyclers, too, but end-of-life vehicles are not glass bottles. We are not planning to enter the spare parts business; that’s up to the dismantling companies. However, the increasing connectedness of vehicle components via software and their ability to be updated could be stumbling blocks for immediate reusability. Solutions will then be needed, not only for reuse, in order for components and raw materials to be reused in production scenarios. If we don’t create common strategies to tackle these questions at European level, recycling could become anything but lucrative, as the ratio of metals to plastics is changing.

Your core competence is actually in the field of metal recycling. Which percentage of metals are you currently able to recycle from end-of-life vehicles?
As a leading recycler of nonferrous metals and steel scrap, Scholz is capable of recovering up to 99 per cent of the metals, even from finely granulated shredder residues, and only last year we again invested in the further development of our systems in order to do so. Nevertheless, additional investment will be needed going forward that we will hardly be able to afford on our own, the reason being that the composites and alloys used in lightweight components are making it increasingly difficult to achieve complete purity when sorting. Moreover, between 2010 and 2030 the ratio of metals is likely to drop from 70 per cent to just below half of the material mix.

And what does the remainder consist of?
Going forward, almost one third of an end-of-life vehicle will consist of polymers and composites for which there is no market and no commercially viable separation and sorting technology, as it has yet to be developed. Even energy recovery is becoming increasingly difficult. That’s a serious problem for ELV recycling in general and that’s why it will be the main topic of my talk. We need to create solutions in collaboration with the manufacturers and the suppliers.

Although composites make vehicles lighter, it is a well-known fact that they are far more difficult to recycle. Is the automotive industry ready to listen?
I sincerely hope so. I used to work for a major lightweight construction supplier, I’m familiar with the business and therefore convinced that we need technical developments from that field. However, we can also find solutions by incorporating recyclability at the product design stage. We could even share the R&D costs with the automotive industry and thus generate benefits in terms of costs, recycling, environmental protection and resource supply security. We have already made numerous offers from our side, so let’s see what comes of them.

The automotive industry is currently deeply involved with the question of how manufacturers can cut their carbon emissions. What needs to happen to ensure that automotive developers also focus more keenly on the recyclability of the materials used?
Together with a competitor, Scholz Recycling has already started a recycling initiative at national level to get manufacturers, researchers, associations and politicians on one common platform. It’s no good simply worrying about the banning of plastic straws, we need to give recycling products a viable market, also by creating favourable political framework conditions if necessary and creating demand as well as incentives all the way to the consumers, as we don’t have a market for non-metallic residues. This could be done by broadening the ecodesign directive and adapting the end-of-life vehicles directive accordingly. And we need to speak about more ideas than just reuse quotas for recycling products in manufacturing. We are talking about manufacturer responsibility, raw materials production and reducing carbon emissions across the entire life cycle of a vehicle – recycling needs to be at both the beginning and the end.

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