High-quality recycling as the starting point for a circular future

High-quality recycling as the starting point for a circular future

Together with the car recycling chain, ARN ensures the recycling of end-of-life vehicles in the Netherlands. In order to arrive at genuinely circular solutions, it’s important that you use your materials in the most high-value way possible. Costs and the CO2 footprint also play a major role. But how do you measure recycling performance, so that you can make well-considered decisions? Consultants Pieter Kuiper and Barend Ubbink are occupied with this every day and regularly share their knowledge with other sectors.

40,000 tonnes of shredder residue from end-of-life vehicles. ARN processed this enormous mountain of material in its PST plant in Tiel last year, where valuable raw materials are reclaimed even from the last waste residue. This extra step in the recycling process for end-of-life vehicles is needed in order to comply fully with the requirement for 95% recycling imposed by the EU. “That’s our most important core task,” says Pieter Kuiper, Senior Project Leader at ARN Sustainability, ARN’s advisory division. “We report the results of our efforts yearly to show the government and the sector that we are doing our work well as an industry.”

Measuring with a dustpan and brush

ARN carries out shredder trials as part of its obligation to report. For a shredder trial, a representative selection of vehicles is used. In the case of ARN, this amounted to approximately 1,200 vehicles from three shredder companies. “A trial is needed because in a recycling chain there are always unknown variables,” says Kuiper. “Conducting a trial makes these visible.” In the trial, you let the selected vehicles go through the recycling process and you measure the output to the desired degree of accuracy. “This allows you to assess the actual performance of the chain. If you’ve done this well, the results of the test will be valid for several years,’ he continues. The results of the trial enable ARN to report the recycling performance of the chain to the government. “We’ve had the trial audited by an external auditor so that the results are completely reliable. That even went so far that we swept together the last residual material with a dustpan and brush.”

Market forces in recycling

ARN also uses the information that it has acquired in past years in other sectors. “We use a tool that we’ve developed on the basis of a Life Cycle Assessment,” explains consultant Barend Ubbink. “With this tool we compare the positive effects of recycling with its costs and the CO2 footprint that it incurs. This knowledge is very useful for other recycling processes outside the automotive sector. For example, the information obtained can be used to make a decision on whether or not to invest. This is all about finding the right balance between ecology, costs and returns. Achieving the highest possible recycling percentage is not everyone’s goal; in some cases, the CO2 footprint performance outweighs this. Personally, I’m proud that ARN contributes to a responsible living environment. We’re already working on waste flows yet to come, such as batteries from electric cars. We have to clean up our mess. And now it’s perfectly clear that there’s money to be made from it; recycling finally pays for itself.”

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