Progressive auto makers create interiors
with environmentally friendly plastics
On November 15, 2006 the Ecology Center released
its second annual “Automotive Plastics Report”, which
grades the country’s eight leading car manufacturers on their
plastics policies and practices. Ford and Honda have made significant
improvements since last year, joining Toyota as leaders in the movement
toward using sustainable plastics in indoor auto parts.
According to the American Plastics Council, the
average vehicle uses 250 lbs. of plastic. A significant proportion
of this is used to make interior auto parts such as seat cushions,
armrests, steering wheels and dashboards. Many of these plastics
are made with harmful chemical additives, such as phthalates in
polyvinyl chloride (VVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFR).
These additives off-gas and leach from plastic parts contaminating
the air and dust inside vehicles, putting people at risk. Many of
these plastics are not easily recycled and usually end up in landfills
where their chemical additives can contaminate land, water and air.
The “2006 Automotive Plastics Report”
focused on three areas in which some automakers are making significant
progress including use of sustainable-sourced bio-based materials,
improving interior air quality and reducing the use of PVC.
Automakers have stepped up their efforts to use
bio-based materials that reduce petroleum use, life-cycle carbon
emissions and vehicle weight. Toyota leads this movement by pioneering
the development of an “Eco Plastic” made from sugar
cane or corn, and building a pilot plant to produce it.
DaimlerChrysler increased the use of renewable
materials in some vehicles by up to 98% over previous models by
using natural materials such as flax and abaca fibers. Ford has
developed a soy-based foam and will soon begin using a bio-fabric
Plastic components contain chemical additives
that off-gas and contribute to “new car smell.” Ford
is the only automaker that has certified some of their vehicles
using an independent third-party certification standard for interior
Toyota has set a goal to reduce in-cabin volatile
organic compound (VOC) levels in all vehicles globally by 2010;
however they did not say to what levels they will be reduced.
Honda and Nissan are also reducing in-cabin VOC’s
in order to comply with the voluntary Japanese Auto Manufacturers
Honda has set a goal to “apply PVC-free
applications across its entire North American product line wherever
The company has already removed PVC from most
applications, demonstrating that virtually PVC-free vehicles are
possible to manufacture.