During the development process we make sure that recycling-capability aspects are incorporated into our vehicle designs. The recycling concept is created during the initial stages of a vehicle’s development. This concept analyzes the individual components and materials at each stage of the recycling process:
- Pretreatment (removal of all service fluids, tires, the battery, and catalytic converters; ignition of airbags)
- Dismantling (removal of replacement parts and/or components for material recycling)
- Separation of metals in the shredder process
- Treatment of non-metallic residual fraction (shredder light fraction — SLF).
The quantitative flows stipulated for each step determine the recycling or recovery rate for the vehicle as a whole. The aforementioned process chain ensures that all Mercedes-Benz models demonstrate a recyclability rate of 85 percent and a recovery rate of 95 percent. As a result, we are already meeting the requirements of the EU directive that will go into effect in 2015.
Proven elements of our recycling concept are resale of tested and certified used parts by the Mercedes-Benz Used Parts Center (GTC), remanufacturing of components, and the MeRSy Recycling Management system for workshops.
Environmentally friendly end-of-life vehicle disposal in the GTC
The Mercedes-Benz Used Parts Center (GTC) in Stuttgart disassembles more than 2,000 Mercedes-Benz cars, vans, and trucks each year. The GTC is one of 200 Mercedes-Benz centers at which customers can return old vehicles to have them disposed of in accordance with the EU’s end-of-life vehicle directive. These centers inspect, store, and sell reusable intact parts such as engines, wheels, and body panels. The remainder of the body is separated into different parts, which are then reintroduced as far as possible into the materials cycle. Material that cannot be reused or recycled is disposed of by the GTC in accordance with the applicable environmental regulations.
Mercedes-Benz original replacement parts save energy and resources
For many years now, Mercedes-Benz original replacement parts have been providing our customers with an environmentally friendly and cost-efficient means of repairing their vehicles. The idea is simple: Customers return parts that are used or no longer functional to Mercedes-Benz, and in exchange they receive completely processed and inspected replacement parts that come with a warranty for the repairs and the spare parts that is valid worldwide. This service is available not only for passenger cars but also for vans and other commercial vehicles. The center offers a wide range of parts from more than 70 product groups, including turbochargers, starters, generators, and air compressors. Transmissions and engines are also available as original replacement parts. Every defective used part that we remanufacture reduces the number of new components that we have to produce, thus saving energy, valuable resources, and costs. The remanufacturing of V8 engines, for example, generates only 1 percent waste on average. Thanks to our component replacement program we are able to reduce raw material consumption by around 13,500 metric tons per year. In addition, we are able to cut energy consumption by about 54,000 megawatt-hours a year.
Europe-wide take-back network for end-of-life vehicles. We guarantee that our customers can easily turn in their old cars and that these automobiles are professionally disposed of in accordance with the EU’s directive on end-of-life vehicles. To this end, we have established networks for returning end-of-life vehicles in all EU countries.
LiBRI-battery recycling for electromobility. Unfortunately, there are still hardly any empirical values for the return of old electric vehicles and the recycling of their batteries. Germany’s Environmental Ministry has therefore helped fund the LiBRI and LithoRec projects for development of a recycling concept for lithium-ion batteries. Both of these projects aimed to achieve a high recycling rate for valuable materials, although the two metallurgic processes — each project used another metallurgic process.
Within the LiBRI network, Daimler cooperated with Umicore AG & Co. KG, Clausthal Technical University, and Oeko-Institut to work on the entire process chain, ranging from an easy-to-disassemble battery design to recovery of materials. The creation and operation of a test facility for battery disassembly and preconditioning of materials will lay the foundation for the subsequent large-scale technological implementation of recycling processes.
MeRSy conserves resources. A total of 75 components of the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class have been approved for the use of highquality recycled plastics. These materials account for 39.2 kilograms of the vehicle’s weight, 5 percent more than in the predecessor model. Typical applications include wheel arch linings and cable ducts, which are mainly made of polypropylene. However, used plasplastics go through a long process before they are installed in new vehicles as recycled materials. At the beginning of this process is the MeRSy Recycling Management system for workshops, which was introduced in Germany in 1993. This system helps to collect and recycle the waste material created during maintenance or repair of our vehicles. If recycling is not possible, the system ensures that the material is professionally disposed of. The system is now used for a total of more than 35 fractions, including plastic parts, batteries, packaging materials, catalytic converters, used tires, brake fluid, and coolants. Thanks to MeRSy, we are annually turning significantly more than 30,000 tons of waste into valuable new materials at our German workshops alone. In 2011 MeRSy collected a total of 32,849 tons of end-of-life parts and materials for recycling. Some 1.087 million liters of coolant and 798,000 liters of brake fluid were also recycled.
MeRSy Recycling Management is a first-rate material recycling system that is firmly embedded in our service businesses’ workflow. The overview shows which used parts we recycle, how we do it, and how they are being reused.
One example of recycling is provided by the catalytic converters from cars serviced at Mercedes-Benz workshops. In the first step, the components are mechanically processed at one of our large-scale sorting and recycling centers in Germany, which disassemble more than 30,000 catalytic converters each year. A system has been specifically developed to cut open the catalytic converter boxes. The contents (a mixture of ceramics and precious metals) are collected in barrels. The precious metals are recovered in a process that begins with a chemical analysis to precisely determine the amount of precious metals contained in the mixture. A specialized facility near Antwerp does the actual work of recovering the individual components. The precious metals (which include platinum, palladium, and rhodium) are fed into a furnace and mixed with copper, creating an alloy of the copper and the precious metals which collapses into small nuggets when it is tapped. Sulfuric acid is then added to remove the copper, and the precious metals that are left over are filtered out. This is followed by a number of purification steps, after which highly concentrated acid is added to separate the various types of precious metal. In a final step, additives cause the precious metals to precipitate out of the system. The stage is thus set for the development of the next generation of catalytic converters.
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