Sustainable Packaging Specification Recommendations for Automotive Manufacturing 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.

Packaging Material / Design Type Viable Recyclability Classification Class A Protection Reference in SP Packaging Guidance
Cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) Generally not viably recycled SP II.3
Extruded polyethylene (PE) Can be viably recycled SP II.3
Expanded polyethylene (EPE) Can be viably recycled SP II.3
Molded expanded polypropylene (EPP) Can be viably recycled SP II.5
Cut plank expanded polypropylene (EPP) Can be viably recycled SP II.5
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) Generally not viably recycled SP II.3
Polyurethane foam (PU) Generally not viably recycled SP II.3
Expanding polyurethane foam formed within plastic bags Generally not viably recycled SP II.4
Air-filled paper Can be viably recycled SP II.4
One-sided synthetic flash spun high density polyethylene fiber coating Can be viably recycled SP II.6
Two-sided synthetic flash spun high density polyethylene fiber coating Detrimental to recycling SP II.6
Brushed nylon Detrimental to recycling SP II.6
Corrugated board /old corrugated container (OCC) boxes attached to wood pallets with screw fasteners, nails or staples Detrimental to recycling SP II.7
Corrugated board /old corrugated container (OCC) boxes attached to wood pallets with plastic banding Can be viably recycled SP II.7
Metal clips on plastic banding Detrimental to recycling SP II.8
Metal bandings Generally not allowed by industry specifications due to safety concerns SP II.8
Corrugated board/OCC boxes reinforced with metal brackets and/or wood Detrimental to recycling SP II.9
Corrugated board/OCC boxes reinforced with cardboard brackets and / or spacers Can be viably recycled SP II.9
Single-use tape (plastic with adhesive) Generally not viably recycled SP II.10
Dunnage with laminates, vinyl labels, PVC components, glues, foam, and/or wire Detrimental to recycling SP II.11
Low density polyethylene (LDPE) / Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) Can be viably recycled SP II.12
Polypropylene and polyester fabric bags Generally not viably recycled SP II.13
Wood pallets Can be viably recycled SP II.15
Oriented strand board (OSB) Generally not viably recycled SP II.16
Polypropylene and polyethylene sleeve packs Can be viably recycled SP II.16
Triple wall corrugated board sleeve packs Can be viably recycled SP II.16
Wooden crates assembled with large steel bolts / plates Detrimental to recycling SP II.17
Wooden crates assembled with removable clips Can be viably recycled SP II.17
Dunnage secured with hook-and-loop fasteners, glue and/or double-sided tape Detrimental to recycling SP II.18
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Totes Can be viably recycled SP II.11
Polypropylene corrugated plastic sheet Can be viably recycled SP II.11
HDPE corrugated plastic sheet Can be viably recycled SP II.11
Corrugated plastic with PU Foam attached Generally not viably recycled SP II.6
Corrugated plastic insert with Fabric Generally not viably recycled SP II.6
Corrugated plastic covered with fabric Generally not viably recycled SP II.6

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.

Please reference the full guidance document for more information on the materials referenced above.

Acknowledgements: This guidance document was produced through a collaborative process by the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment (SP) Sustainable Materials Work Group Sustainable Packaging Sub-Team. The 2022 version included input and review from representatives of Action Wood 360, AI Trading, ARPLANK Direct, Avangard Innovative, DENSO, Doug Brown Packaging Products, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Green Processing Company, Honda Development & Manufacturing America, JSP, Lear Corp, Magna International, Mustang Innovation, Primex Design & Fabrication, Real Quality Services, Stellantis, Toyota Motor North America, Toyota Tsusho America, and UGN.  The 2022 project was co-chaired by: Bridget Grewal, Magna International; and, Matt Marshall, Toyota Motor North America.

Disclaimer: This document is intended to provide information for automakers, their suppliers and the general public on sourcing sustainable packaging designs. The information included in this document is based on the professional judgment of the individual authors and reviewers and may be used at a company’s discretion. SP and its member companies make no warranty, expressed or implied, and assume no liability for any form of damage that may result from the application of the information contained in this document.

Contact: Please submit any feedback on this guidance or suggestions for future improvements to info@supplierspartnership.org.

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