At ŠKODA, the circular economy follows four key principles – minimising negative impacts on the environment, input resources and the loss of these resources, and conversely maximising the circulation of resources.
New opportunities for the implementation of these principles are sought by an interdisciplinary team coordinated by the Ecology and Occupational Protection department. “We are introducing measures that make sense both in terms of environmental protection and efficient use of resources and in financial terms,” says Lenka Bočková, head of the unit.
Longer life spans
The circular economy has found an application in the maintenance of hydraulic machines, for example, where ŠKODA continuously monitors, checks and filters lubricants. The oils themselves are analysed by Central Technical Service staff in the FabLab innovation laboratory. The result of these activities is that lubricants’ life spans have been extended and the frequency of machine breakdowns has been reduced. Last year alone, for example, they filtered more than 1,000 hectolitres of oil and saved around 5 million Czech crowns on oil purchases. Another saving is more reliable operation, involving lower spare parts consumption and less downtime.
ŠKODA is not tackling the issue of the circular economy alone. It is doing its utmost to take the issue beyond the factory gates and is involving the entire supply chain in discussions, including recyclers, academics and other partners. For that reason the company has kick-started a series of meetings, always focused on a specific material. Two have been held so far, dealing with specific materials – glass and rubber. A number of pilot projects have emerged from both meetings – such as training for the dealer network with regard to the circular management of end-of-life car glass and its reuse in the glass industry and increasing the use of shards of primary and stressed glass in the production of new car glass.
More recycled materials
The Czech carmaker uses a number of plastic parts for its cars made from recycled waste that comes from end-of-life car parts or from sub-standard parts of dashboards, bumpers, etc. that are generated during production. This is either 100% recycled material or a part made with some “virgin material” (new, unused material). In some ŠKODA models, this is how exterior covers for the chassis, wheel arches, engine or water drainage channel under the windscreen are made (see photo). For these parts, recycled materials from used car battery covers are reused. Other examples include interior carpets on the floors and in the luggage compartment and mats, which are largely made from recycled plastic bottles. Technical Development boffins are also exploring the possibility that fibres extracted from unused parts of coconut, flax, beet or coffee grounds could be used as a filler for plastics. The overriding objective is in all this is to conserve natural resources and make use of waste material.
“Since 2020, all waste that is generated by production at ŠKODA’s Czech plants and would have previously ended up in landfill has been used as material or for energy generation.”
Ground limestone, which absorbs residual paint particles by means of a process known as dry separation, has proved extremely useful in the Paint Shop. “No water is used in this method. Air containing ground limestone circulates in the system, capturing paint and varnish particles. At the same time, only 20% fresh air is supplied, which saves us 80% of the energy required for cleaning and preparing the air for the paint shop’s operation,” explains Veronika Nýdrová from Paint Shop Process Planning. This pre-used raw material, which consists of paint-saturated limestone, finds a second application in a process called dry flue gas desulphurisation in the ŠKO-ENERGO heating plant.
Another example of a circular project is cooperation between Technical Development and the recycling company Praktik or granulate manufacturers to develop materials from used painted bumpers or to come up with ideas for reusing engine oil or brake fluid. “We are also currently working on chemical recycling, which can use a thermal process to turn old plastic into virgin-quality material,” says Lukáš Zuzánek from the Corrosion, Weather Resilience and Material Development department. There are many concrete examples of the application of circular economy principles in the Czech carmaker, from increasing the proportion of recycled materials and reusing packaging in logistics to innovative technical solutions in manufacturing.
ŠKODA has been setting out its strategy, objectives and position on sustainability and decarbonisation to its employees as part of GreenWeek, an event in which a whole working week is devoted to talks and workshops on issues that underpin the company’s Green Future strategy. The presentations take place online, but employees can take part in the discussions. The GreenWeek events are tied in with Volkswagen Group’s goTozero weeks initiative that provides training to the group’s employees all over the world. What topics is ŠKODA GreenWeek exploring this year? Besides sustainability, decarbonisation and CO2 neutrality, this year’s event will look at the circular economy, zero waste, energy and environmental efficiency, water and biodiversity.
For more details see here.