BMW claims making trim parts for its upcoming Neue Klasse model (due out in 2025) from plastic raw material containing around 30% recycled fishing nets and ropes is a first for the automotive industry. However, Ford made a similar claim last December stating it was using “100% recycled ocean plastics” to make wiring harness clips for the new Bronco Sport.

A BMW spokesman told Just Auto: “The [announcement] is specifically referring to a ‘first’ for the industry in using recycled fishing net materials in customer-facing/visible interior trim parts inside the vehicle.”

BMW said its “exclusive recycling process” uses maritime industry waste material to produce trim parts “suitable for the exterior and interior of future vehicles”. The resulting components have an approximately 25% lower carbon footprint than their counterparts made from conventionally manufactured plastics.

The group “is working with different approaches to use plastic waste from the maritime industry as a raw material for vehicle components in order to conserve valuable resources and reduce CO2 emissions. This form of recycling makes it possible to reduce the need for petroleum based primary plastics and at the same time counteract ocean pollution,” the Munich based automaker said.

BMW uses recycled nylon waste as the basis for a synthetic yarn from which floor mats are currently made for the iX and X1 SUVs. The material, known as Econyl, is produced from discarded fishing nets well as worn floor coverings and residual waste from plastics production.

In a new initiative developed in cooperation with the Danish company Plastix, the group is taking the recycling of maritime plastic waste a step further. After separation, fishing nets and ropes undergo an innovative process that produces plastic granules. While recycled maritime plastic has so far only been used in the automotive industry in the form of fibres for new vehicle components, this recycled material is now also suitable for the injection moulding process for the first time. The raw material for the components manufactured in this way “can consist of around 30% maritime plastic waste”, the automaker said.

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Ford’s plastic material for recycling is collected from the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea by DSM Engineering Materials. Items produced using plastics collected from the oceans include a wide range of consumer goods but the rival automaker’s initiative added automotive parts to the list.

The process begins with DSM harvesting discarded nylon fishing nets. The plastic is washed of saltwater, dried, and extruded to form small pellets, which are then injection moulded by supplier HellermannTyton into the desired clip shape. Ford plans additional parts using recycled ocean plastics, including transmission brackets, wire shields and floor side rails – all stationary parts with strength and durability demands that the material can meet or exceed. But, unlike BMW’s parts, not customer-facing.

Ford has used recycled plastics for 20 years though not until recently nateria collected from oceans. Most recently, the automaker used recycled water bottles to produce underbody shields for the 2020 Escape.

BMW said its new process creates additional application possibilities for recycled plastics. The group has set a target of increasing the proportion of secondary materials in the thermoplastics used in new vehicles from currently around 20% to an average of 40% by 2030.