Between the sharp increases in raw material costs and "green" legislation mandating recycling-friendly vehicles (primarily in Europe, but sure to move elsewhere), the reclamation of automotive components is ever more important. Metal components typically aren't difficult to deal with (sort 'em out and melt 'em down), but when it comes to interior plastics, it's a much different story.

If you?ve ever removed a door panel, you?ve gotten a sense of how many different materials go into its structure, and by mixing materials such as cloth, leather, foam, and plastic, one creates a part that?s difficult to break back down. As well, components such as dash pads and steering wheels are often made of PVC or urethane foam, both of which present recycling difficulties. Ford?s Advanced Color and Material team is working to identify materials which are more conducive to the recycling process, while not compromising appearance or function. Additionally, ?up-cycling? is attracting attention, where industrial waste products are used in the creation of other raw materials. The program aims to introduce some of these materials for the 2008 or 2009 model years. The end result might be a vehicle that requires less energy to produce, and impacts the environment less when its life is over. This is something we?re going to need more of, if we intend to bring millions of new drivers into the automotive world over the next few decades.

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