In this final instalment of Audi’s series on ESG, Sebastian Copeland examines the ways the brand’s second-life initiatives – reducing, reusing and recycling key materials – are another key to more efficient and cleaner ways of operating.

7 May, 2024

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. These three words represent the three key pillars of Audi’s philosophy when it comes to creating circular economies within its entire production operation. The idea of closing the loop to reduce waste and increase efficiencies begins right at the design phase at Audi, where the ultimate recycling of a vehicle at ‘end of life’ is factored in from the outset to streamline the entire process.

Using established recycling practices where they exist and developing pilot projects for specialist areas like automotive plastics and glass, Audi is able to home in on key areas where materials can be captured, recycled and returned to primary quality to be reused once again. 

The materials receiving most attention are steel, aluminium, polymers, glass and the battery which of course contains numerous recyclable materials. Working closely with partners across research, the recycling industry and throughout the supply chain, the brand is making significantly inroads. In 2021, Audi became the first car manufacturer to be awarded the Chain of Custody certificate of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative – a seal of quality for the sustainable processing of aluminium along the entire materials chain – from the extraction of bauxite to the recycling of scrap.

In other areas Audi is also leading the way, becoming the first automotive manufacturer to close the loop on balance for post-consumer glass with its extensive work on a glass recycling project. This has seen the recycling of windscreens and other automotive glass which is damaged beyond repair being recycled to the point where it can be used to produce brand new windscreens. The Audi Q4 e-tron is just one recipient of this recycled automotive glass, while the brand is also working on pilot projects to look at other materials that can be used in future vehicles. One such pilot, the MaterialLoop project saw Audi partner with 15 other specialists to reuse and recycle numerous materials from 100 vehicles. Findings from this project have already been used to further the specific recycling of some materials and to develop more efficient ways of reusing others.

From pilot projects such as this, the brand is able to look at ways of scaling the process for widespread use in the future. The idea of course is to become self-sustaining, reducing the amount of primary materials needed in the first instance and recapturing, recycling and reusing those materials already employed in vehicle manufacture.

Of course quality is a vital part of the process, ensuring the brand’s recognised high standards for those materials used in producing its vehicles, but Audi is demonstrating that these two outcomes need not be mutually exclusive.

Also in the series:

The Bigger Picture - Part 1

The Bigger Picture - Part 2

The Bigger Picture - Part 3