Sustainable Packaging Specification Recommendations for Automotive Operations 

Recyclability of Common Automotive Packaging Materials in U.S.

The guidance document includes information on the viable recyclability of common packaging materials / designs used in the automotive industry in the United States. This information is intended to help support consideration of opportunities to minimize automotive packaging waste and address barriers to recyclability in the design phase, where possible.

Key Definitions

  • Viably Recycled. For the purposes of this guidance, a material is considered to be viably recycled where established systems are in place with capability to technically, and economically, recycle the material in major automotive operating regions in the United States. To be considered economically sustainable, the material must have a market value that typically meets or exceeds the cost to collect, transport and process the material for recycling.  Consideration of materials that can be processed into resin for use back into the same or similar application is typically preferred where possible, however materials that are downcycled for use in other industries may be suitable where economically sustainable recycling systems exist.
  • Detrimental to Recycling. For the purposes of this guidance, packaging materials or designs that require separation or other pre-processing in order to be acceptable into established recycling systems are considered to be detrimental.  While the challenges presented by these materials can often technically be overcome, the additional time, labor and other costs required to do so may outweigh the recycling value thereby increasingly the likelihood that the material may be sent to landfill.

Acknowledgements: The above guidance documents were produced through a collaborative process by the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment (SP) Sustainable Packaging Work Group. The work group projects were co-chaired by Bridget Grewal, Magna International, and, Matt Marshall, Toyota Motor North America, and facilitated by Kellen Mahoney, SP. The documents included input and review from work group members representing automakers, tiered suppliers, packaging suppliers and recyclers, as listed in the acknowledgements of each publication.

Disclaimer: This document is intended solely to provide information for automakers, their suppliers and the general public on sourcing sustainable packaging designs. This document sets forth various findings based on information available to working group members at the time of issuance.  These findings are not intended to set forth any industry rule, requirement or standard.  Each company should independently determine its own processes and practices, including, without limitation, levels, measurements, vendors, materials, equipment, energy sources, energy use, emissions, and recyclability.

This document should not be considered to contain legal advice.  SP and its member companies make no warranty, expressed or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this document, and they will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information.  The authors of this document reserve the right to change it at any time, as they deem appropriate within their sole discretion.  SP and its member companies will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages that may result from the use of the information contained in this document. It is the sole and exclusive responsibility of every company designing and sourcing packaging materials to undertake individual, unique analysis as it pertains to their own specific application and production process, as well as to understand and comply with all applicable laws, regulations, standards, and individual customer requirements.

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