chemical recycling

Mercedes-Benz takes firm grip of circularity

From scrap tyres to door handles.

August 24, 2022 – 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 will be the first production models to be equipped with bow door handles made from recycled plastic.

On the road to a fully electric future, Mercedes-Benz is consistently pursuing a holistic approach. 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.

"Through close cooperation with our supplier network, we are replacing raw fossil resources with pyrolysis oil made in part from recycled tyres supplied by Mercedes-Benz. Components featuring this technology will enter series production in a number of our models. We anticipate being able to chemically recycle several hundred tons of scrap tyres from Mercedes-Benz vehicles each year and to use the resulting plastic in our new vehicles. Together with our partners, we are closing the material cycle and actively driving the development of innovative recycling processes,” says Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Chief Technology Officer responsible for Development and 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 wich 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 will also come 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 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

With Ambition 2039, Mercedes-Benz aims to offer a CO₂-neutral new car fleet in less than 20 years. 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 order to achieve #ambition2039, every action counts.

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