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The MaterialLoop Project: Turning Old Into New

The MaterialLoop Project: Turning Old Into New

Audi has launched the MaterialLoop project to test how to repurpose even more recycled materials from old vehicles into new ones. Their vision: to operate a highly efficient circular economy concept without compromising quality.

Copy: Nadia Riaz-Ahmed - Photo: KieferWorXAUDI AGKG Media Factory Reading Time: 3 min

A large accumulation of damaged auto glass.A large accumulation of damaged auto glass.

Circularity is a hot topic right now. It is set to increasingly replace the traditional, linear economic model that relies on large quantities of easily accessible raw materials and affordable energy. Audi aims to advance the circular economy concept to preserve the value of products and materials for as long as possible.

In this sense, taking responsibility starts with enabling longevity and reparability of vehicles – only as a final step does the best possible recycling solution come into play. Once a vehicle reaches the end of its life cycle, the raw materials used are to be fed back into the production process as comprehensively as possible. To this date, only a few of the materials used in the production of new vehicles are obtained from old vehicles. Steel, for example, usually ends up as structural steel after the end-of-life vehicle recycling process. Audi wants to change that and, in the future, feed secondary materials derived from old vehicles back into automotive production. They aim to prevent as far as possible downcycling, a recycling process where the recycled materials are of lower quality than the original.

A large accumulation of scrap metal cut into small pieces.A large accumulation of scrap metal cut into small pieces.

Audi partnered with 15 organisations from industry and research and launched the MaterialLoop project in October 2022 to run in-depth tests on a total of 100 vehicles by the end of April 2023. They focus on recyclable materials with further potential, the development of new technical processes and recycling methods that are already economically and ecologically feasible today. Their aim is to close more material loops for recyclable materials such as steel, aluminium, plastics, or glass within the automotive industry in the future and to give a “second life” to resources. Although the pilot project is still underway, the project participants have already started to feed materials back into automotive production. Much of the steel recycled within the project can be used in the production of new models. Audi intends to use a large part of the steel recycled within the MaterialLoop project to produce up to 15,000 interior door parts of the Audi A4 series.

When it comes to plastic and glass recycling, the project has got one step closer to making the basic concept tangible for customers: glass granules from damaged car windows that can no longer be repaired are melted down, processed into flat glass, and turned into a new car window for the Audi Q4 e-tron. Mixed automotive plastic waste is used in the production of the seatbelt buckle covers for the new Audi Q8 e-tron. What is crucial: the use of secondary materials must not conflict with the high-quality standards.

The findings from MaterialLoop are to enable material loops for automotive use wherever it is technically possible and makes economic and ecological sense. The project is part of Audi’s circular economy strategy and provides valuable findings for implementation in practice.

Plastic granules on a conveyor belt. Plastic granules on a conveyor belt.
An Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback at the seaside.

A sustainable impression

There are up to 27 parts from recycled content in an Audi Q4 e-tron. But fulfilling the sustainability requirements is only one aspect that makes the Audi Q4 e-tron so interesting. Find out more about the all-electric Audi here.