Environmental groups want automakers to build cars that can be scrapped in eco-friendly ways. Metal parts are easy to recycle, but tough, durable automotive plastics aren’t. Now engineers at the University of Warwick’s Warwick Manufacturing Group in Warwickshire, England, have found a way to make these plastics “greener”-using elephant grass.
Working with Somerset, England-based Bical, Warwick engineers have used previously discarded pieces of elephant grass to stiffen biodegradable plastic resins not previously suitable for use in cars. The resulting plastics are strong while in use yet can be encouraged to biodegrade in compost heaps. The group has already tested wheel rims made from the plastics; several European car manufacturers have expressed interest.