Toray Industries, a Tokyo-based chemicals manufacturer, and car giant Honda are developing a chemical recycling technology for polymer composites recovered from end-of-life vehicles (ELVs).
Glass-fibre reinforced Nylon 6 from used vehicles is being depolymerised into the raw monomer caprolactam, with properties claimed to be similar to the virgin resin. The technology uses water at high temperature and pressure, and the hydrolysis effect in resins, to convert the nylon. Toray and Honda are in the process of verifying the process and hope to deploy it by 2027.
Honda is responsible for the collection and separation of the scrap material and reducing the initial size of the plastic. Toray separates and purifies the monomers and synthesises resin chips. Honda will then use the recycled resin to manufacture parts for its vehicles. The technology is said to yield high quantities of raw monomer in short turnaround times.
The overall goal is to reuse recycled auto parts in the same value chain. As a first step, the companies will recycle engine intake manifolds to generate raw materials for manufacturing new intake parts.
‘The Ministry of the Environment adopted this technology for a fiscal 2023 project to establish a decarbonised circular economy system,’ Toray says in a news release. ‘Toray and Honda look to employ that project to set up a pilot facility with a processing capacity of 500 tonnes annually of raw resin, conducting validation testing.’
In time, Toray and Honda want to apply the chemical recycling process beyond the automobile industry in sectors such as clothing and plastic films. They hope to include other companies in the work.