Keeping PVC in the loop Graphics
Sustainability 18.06.2021 4 Min.
Keeping it in the loop.

In late 2019, a small team at the Araquari paint shop began collecting high-quality PVC scrap and introducing it back into the material cycle. It has since become a global project for the BMW Group.

“The idea is really simple,” says Lucas Eda, who works as project manager at the BMW Group paint shop in Araquari, Brazil. He and his three colleagues from the “Seal the deal” team had to laugh as they talked about their project via Teams. They never could have imagined that their idea would contribute to the sustainability strategy for the entire BMW Group.

It doesn’t take long to tell the story: “We had tonnes of PVC waste left over from our paint shop every year. Until then, most of this waste was incinerated to generate energy. We wondered whether we could go a step further so we could reintroduce the material into production and open up possibilities for a circular economy,” explains Eda. Because of its flexibility, polyvinyl chloride, or PVC for short, is one of the most widely used types of plastic worldwide. It is employed in the paint shop for corrosion protection, sealing the body and underbody protection.

The same applies to all plastics, not just PVC: The purer the residual materials, the greater the potential for reuse. So, the team set about collecting left-over PVC material in containers and optimised a number of paint shop processes to make it easier to separate materials cleanly. They soon found a Brazilian manufacturer who could pick up the high-quality leftover PVC from the plant and turn this free material into floor mats, electric cables or synthetic leather: a win-win situation that saves the BMW Group the cost of transporting and disposing of these materials – and offers a much greener solution for production remnants. It is hardly surprising, then, that the “Seal the deal” idea soon attracted the interest of other BMW Group plants.

In the meantime, the Brazilian plant’s initiative has become a global BMW Group project. With the support of headquarters in Munich, the aim is now to roll out the “Seal the deal” idea across the company. In addition to reducing waste, the most sustainable solution for handling PVC waste needs to be found for every plant. “We already made a start at the paint shop in Regensburg,” says Dominik Metzger, who is responsible for PVC materials and processes at the BMW Group. As in Araquari, local partners have been found who can process and recycle the waste so the PVC material can be re-introduced to standard production.

“If we succeed, we could lead the way for the automotive industry and show the world how the future can be made much more sustainable,” says “Seal the deal” project manager Lucas Eda.

The BMW Group is supporting the project set up by the four young talents. “Seal the deal” has been part of the BMW Group’s Accelerator intrapreneurship programme for promoting innovative social business models since 2019. Lucas, Claudia, João and Leopoldo have also been nominated as delegates to the “One Young World Summit”, a global network of more than 1,800 young leaders committed to a better society and a sustainable approach to our environment.