Project Bumper gives cars a new lease of life

Every year, 200,000 cars are scrapped in Sweden. Several of these are handled by If and our partner workshops, and 95 percent of the materials are recycled. A new project makes it possible to recycle plastic from the bumpers, which is reused for 3D-printed chairs instead of simply being incinerated.

The EU’s regulatory framework on producer responsibility stipulates that 95 percent of materials from scrapped cars must be recycled. In the case of plastic parts, this usually involves energy recovery (i.e. incineration) to produce electricity.

‘The automotive industry has been trying to get better at recycling the plastic material from end-of-life vehicles for years. Currently, this plastic is incinerated, since this kind of energy recovery is sufficient to meet the legal requirements. But it would be much better if the plastic could be recycled. This was how the idea to give the plastic a new lease of life as furniture came about’, says Anna Henstedt, Environmental Manager at the trade association BIL Sweden.

Plans were already advancing well when BIL Sweden, Volvo Cars and Volkswagen contacted If with the idea of making use of the bumpers from scrapped cars, which would otherwise have been wasted. If is the Nordic region’s largest automotive insurer and scraps approximately 13,000 cars per year in Sweden alone.

‘Reuse and recycling are hugely important driving forces for us. We really want to be part of the solution. I’ve worked in car scrapping for a long time and have seen how much material is wasted. I’m really happy we have found this opportunity to recycle materials. So far, we’ve manually removed between 50 and 60 bumpers from our workshops’, says Robert Carlström, who has responsibility for dismantling end-of-life vehicles for If in Sweden.

From a bumber to a chair

Firstly, the bumpers need to be cleaned – a bumper is not a clean piece of plastic but consists of lots of different materials and electronics. The material is ground down into tiny pieces, which are then used by furniture manufacturer Sculptur to produce 3D-printed chairs. Sculptur is based in Karlshamn and is the first company in the world to use 3D printing as a way to manufacture furniture. The company previously made furniture from old fishing nets recovered from the sea.

Sculptur is now working on the development of full-sized chairs and sofas, which will initially be sold to partner companies in the project and used in reception areas, car showrooms and similar locations receiving large numbers of visitors.

‘The idea is to eventually be able to scale up production, but we have to take things step by step’, says Anna Henstedt.

The bumpers are easy to remove, and all car manufacturers basically use the same material, which makes it easy to recycle. Further down the line, it will be possible to use plastic from other parts of the car in the production process.

‘Think of it as separating your household waste, but for a car. The more we can recycle, the better’, adds Robert Carlström.

 

Robert Carlström

Responsible for dismantling end-of-life vehicles, If

Anna Henstedt

Environmental Manager,
BIL Sweden