Chemical Recycling.

Mercedes-Benz takes firm grip of circularity

From scrap tyres to door handles.

March 11, 2024 – To take a circular approach to used car tyres, Mercedes-Benz relies on chemical recycling. The tyre recycling process reduces the use of fossil resources and the carbon footprint. The EQE and the S-Class were the first production models to receive bow door handles made of recycled plastic.

Mercedes-Benz is taking the necessary steps to go all electric. Customers and market conditions will set the pace of the transformation. One of the focal points here is the careful use of resources. In this respect, the company is also rethinking the composition of all materials used in its vehicles. The goal is to increasingly decouple resource consumption from growth in production output. In addition, Mercedes-Benz AG is striving to increase the share of recycled materials in its passenger car fleet to an average of 40 per cent by 2030.

Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG. Chief Technology Officer, Development & Procurement.

Through cooperation with our supplier network, we bring components in various vehicle models into series production, for which pyrolysis oil replaces fossil raw materials from recycled car tires, among other things. To this end, we intend to have several hundred tons of used tires chemically recycled every year and to return the resulting plastic material to our new cars. Together with our partners, we are closing the material cycle and actively driving the development of innovative recycling processes.

Markus Schäfer
Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Chief Technology Officer responsible for Development and Procurement
Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG. Chief Technology Officer, Development & Procurement.

Tyre recycling: Pyrolysis oil from worn-out tyres

Mercedes-Benz works with various partners to take a circular approach to old tyres. One route takes advantage of BASF ’s chemical recycling process. The starting point is pyrolysis oil generated from used tyres by the pyrolysis company Pyrum Innovations AG . BASF combines this with biomethane from agricultural waste. Using both of these materials together, it is possible to create a virgin-quality plastic that is certified in accordance with the so-called mass balance approach . An independent certification confirms that the supplier replaced the quantity of fossil resources necessary for the final product with renewable resources and pyrolysis oil from tyre recycling. The cooperation between Mercedes-Benz and BASF marks the first use of pyrolysis oil from recycled end-of-life tyres combined with biomethane.

The recovery of secondary materials reduces not only the use of fossil resources but also the carbon footprint of the resulting new plastics. Furthermore, for the first time, the innovative recycled plastic has the same characteristics as virgin plastic produced from crude oil. This means that it can be applied quickly to ongoing production as a drop-in solution. At the same time, it fulfils Mercedes-Benz’s high quality standards and demands, particularly when it comes to paintability and crash safety. These properties indicate that the waste tyre recycling process has the potential to replace a large number of vehicle components made from primary plastic.

Since 2022, the EQE and S-Class are the first series-production models which are available with bow door handles manufactured using a combination of biomethane and pyrolysis oil made from old tyres, instead of raw fossil resources. The S-Class has also been fitted with a crash absorber based on this combination of raw materials. As part of the front end, the part creates a more even distribution of the forces acting on the other car in a frontal crash. Forthcoming models such as the EQE SUV and EQS SUV will be equipped with bow door handles made from this innovative plastic as well. Looking to the future, the aim is to progressively increase the use of this more sustainable recycled material, and also to use chemical recycling in combination with the biomass balance approach for further plastic vehicle parts. The company is currently exploring suitable applications.

Innovative manufacturing process

In contrast to mechanical recycling, chemical recycling is particularly well suited to the manufacture of components subject to high quality and safety requirements. Chemical recycling is therefore not only a sensible counterpart to mechanical recycling, but it also marks a decisive step towards the highest possible re-use of recyclable scrap materials in a manner that is beneficial to both the environment and the economy. By reducing the need for fossil resources, the chemical recycling process has the potential to decouple the production of high-quality plastics for a wide range of applications from crude-oil consumption.

Sustainability at Mercedes-Benz

When it comes to sustainability, the company is particularly focused on the careful use of resources. With its “Design for Environment” approach, the vehicle manufacturer already takes resource consumption into account from the very earliest stages of product development. Together with its partners, Mercedes-Benz is researching more sustainable material technologies and working intensively towards circularity. Combined with the biomass balance approach, chemical recycling is an innovative process that supports this. Because in our “Ambition 2039” we have set ourselves the target of making our fleet of new vehicles net carbon-neutral along the entire value chain and over the vehicles’ entire life cycle by 2039.

Further information on the use of sustainable materials at Mercedes-Benz