Demand for mineral resources is growing rapidly as emerging countries develop economically. Some predictions forecast that all currently known mineral resources will have been extracted by 2050 if present trends continue. Some mining sites currently in operation and new exploration sites are located in areas where local ecosystems need to be preserved, and there is concern about the environmental effects of topsoil excavation, deforestation and wastewater.
Nissan is taking measures to address these issues. We are increasing use of renewable resources and recycled materials in addition to the traditional approach of using resources more efficiently to reduce reliance on them. Our efforts with respect to recycled materials are based on the thinking that once a natural resource is extracted it should continue to be used, while maintaining quality, to minimize environmental impact. We have set a target of increasing the usage rate for recycled materials per new vehicles for which production begins in fiscal year 2016 by 25% in Japan, U.S., and Europe.
Our Closed-Loop Recycling System
Closed-loop recycling is a way of recycling waste generated during vehicle production and scrap from end-of-life parts into recycled material that has
equal quality as new resources, using it as material in the same type of own products. With this method, the same material can be used repeatedly, thus greatly reducing CO2 emissions and the environmental impact over the product lifecycle. The company is focusing its efforts on closed-loop recycling of steel, aluminum and plastic. These materials, which account for a large proportion of the content of a vehicle, have a major environmental impact when they are extracted and require a large amount of energy for production and disposal.
Nissan is working to reduce the steel and aluminum scrap left over in the manufacturing process. The company is also working with business partners to collect and reuse this scrap as material for new vehicles. End-of life aluminum wheel rims are also collected for recycling. In fiscal 2013, Nissan collected about 2,700 tons of wheel rims. In Japan, Nissan is collecting plastic in the form of finished bumper scrap generated at its plants and turning it into recycled plastics in a finished bumper reprocessing line set up in the Oppama Plant. Recycled plastics have already been given new life as bumpers in Nissan LEAF and many other new vehicles. Exchanged bumpers collected from dealerships are being recycled as materials for under covers and other components.
Activities for closed-loop recycling
Aluminum wheel recycling
Nissan collects aluminum wheels from end-of-life vehicles and recycles them as materials in Nissan plants. They are used in high-quality suspension parts, which reduces the use of virgin materials. Discarded aluminum material has traditionally been recycled for use in engines and a wide range of aluminum parts. Today recycling companies across the country collect Nissan aluminum wheels separately, and this strict separation enables their reuse in higher-grade aluminum parts.
Development of technology to recycle removed bumpers
Nissan dealerships collect damaged bumpers that are discarded after accident repairs in all parts of Japan. We have developed a device that pulverizes the collected bumpers and strips off the coating without the use of chemicals, in a process that is cheaper than the conventional one. We are starting to apply these recycled bumper materials in both bumpers for repairs and bumpers for new vehicles.
Recycling used plastic bottles
Adoption of parts that use fibers from used plastic bottles
We have succeeded in developing technology to make fine fibers from recycled plastic (polyester), which had been difficult in the past. Fibers from used plastic bottles are recycled and used as the main component in sound insulation layers in the dashboard and floor insulators.
Collection and recycling of plastic bottle caps in automobile parts
Nissan has started collecting discarded plastic bottle caps from its offices and some affiliated companies in Japan and recycling them as materials for automobile parts. Plastic bottle caps are made from polypropylene, which is also used in many automobile parts, and disposed of as waste in some communities. As one method to maximize the use of limited precious resources, we have built mechanisms together with partner companies to recycle materials for use in automobiles.