Raw Materials in Circulation
ŠKODA AUTO strengthens the circular economy and constantly looks for ways to keep valuable materials in its production cycle
he circular economy (see the February 2020 issue of ŠKODA Mobil for more details) follows four key principles at ŠKODA AUTO: minimise negative impacts on the environment, the input sources and their losses and, conversely, maximise the circulation of sources. An interdisciplinary team coordinated by PSU – Environmental and Work Protection is looking for new opportunities to implement these principles. “We implement measures that make sense both in terms of environmental protection and the effective use of resources and in terms of finances”, says Lenka Bočková, who heads the department.
Since 2020, all the originally landfilled waste generated from production at the Czech plants has been used for new materials or energy purposes.
ŠKODA AUTO does not deal with the circular economy alone. It also looks outside the plants to involve its entire supply chain in the discussions, including recyclers, representatives from academia and other partners. That is why it started a series of meetings always focused on a specific type of material. So far, two of them have taken place and dealt with specific materials: glass and rubber. Both meetings resulted in a few pilot projects – for example, training the dealer network in the circular handling of obsolete car windows and how they can be re-used in the glass industry or increasing the share of its primary production and stressed glass cullet in the production of the new car windows.
Another example of a circular project is the cooperation between Technical Development and the Praktik recycling company or with granulate manufacturers in the development of materials of used painted bumpers or the search for ideas about re-using engine oil or brake fluid. “Currently, we’re also dealing with chemical recycling, which can use a thermal process to create virgin quality material from old plastic”, says Lukáš Zuzánek from the EKX/2 – Corrosion, Weather Resistance, Development of Materials. There are several specific examples of using the circular economy principles in the car industry, from increasing the share of recycled materials through the re-use of packaging in logistics to innovative technical solutions in production. ED
Increased service life
The circular economy has found an application in the maintenance of hydraulic machines, whose lubricants the carmaker continuously monitors, inspects and filters. The oils themselves are analysed by the PSZ – Central Technical Service staff at the FabLab innovation laboratory (see the April 2021 issue of ŠKODA Mobil). These activities extend the lubricant’s service life and reduce the frequency of machine failures as well. For example, last year alone, they filtered over 1,000 hectolitres of oil and saved about CZK 5 million on its acquisition. Another saving comes from the more reliable operation, which includes reduced spare part consumption and less frequent outages.
The carmaker uses several plastic parts for its cars from recycled waste, which comes from car parts at the end of their service life or from non-conforming parts of their dashboards, bumpers and so forth, which are generated during production. It is either a 100 percent recyclate or a part made with its share of so-called virgin material (new, yet unused material – ed.). Chassis outer covers, wheel arch covers, engine covers or covers for the water duct under the windscreen are produced for some ŠKODA models in this way (see the photo). For example, it is made from recycled material from used car battery covers. Another example is the interior floor and boot carpets or inlaid rugs, which are largely made from recycled PET bottles. Technical Development employees also examine the use of fibres obtained from unused parts of coconut, flax, beet or ground coffee as plastic fillers. All this is done to protect our natural resources and use waste material.
Ground limestone, which absorbs residual paint particles through dry separation, has found a great use at the M18 Paint Shop (see the August 2019 issue of ŠKODA Mobil). “This method uses no water. Air saturated with ground limestone circulates in the system, which captures paint and varnish parts. At the same time, we supply only 20 percent of the fresh air, which in turn saves us 80 percent of the energy needed to clean and prepare the air for the Paint Shop’s operations”, explains Veronika Nýdrová from PPF-L/1 – Paint Shop Process Planning. This raw material, which has already been used once and consists of colour-saturated limestone, is also applied in the process of dry flue gas desulphurisation in the ŠKO-ENERGO heating plant.