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Upcycling Car Parts

Upcycling Car Parts

Upcycling Car Parts: Taking a car part that would otherwise go to waste and finding a way to make it into something else/useful.

Two of the most basic terms in the automotive Eco-Design field are ‘Cradle to Grave’ and ‘Cradle to Cradle’. They relate to the product life cycle from the raw materials (Cradle) to disposal (Grave).

  • Cradle-to-Grave
    • A term used in life-cycle analysis to describe the entire life of a material or product up to the point of disposal


  • Cradle-to-Cradle
    • A model of industrial systems in which material flows cyclically in appropriate, continuous biological or technical nutrient cycles. All waste materials are productively re-incorporated into new production and use phases.

Cradle-to-Cradle is a manifesto asking for a radical change in the automotive industry. Discouraging downcycling, and encouraging the manufacture of products with the goal of upcycling in mind. This automotive vision of upcycling is based on a system of ‘lifecycle development’: after vehicles have reached the end of their useful life, they are dismantled and become ‘technical nutrients’.

Upcycling is the opposite of downcycling, which is the other half of the recycling process. Downcycling involves converting materials and products into new materials of lesser quality. Most recycling involves converting or extracting useful materials from a product and creating a different product or material.

Automotive components and systems offer a special case when it comes to recycling time; often not accepted by local garbage collection services because of their weight, size and composition. Old car parts can present a real recycling hassle. Instead of focusing energy on disposing the materials, people and businesses are setting their sights instead on what those parts could become.

Automotive upcycling completely reuses materials in ways that do not degrade their quality. The upcycling approach is ‘eco-effective’, as opposed to the ‘eco-efficient’ approach of conventional recycling. With more and more automotive corporations considering their products’ complete life cycles, the application of the cradle-to-cradle model could have profound implications not only for the environment but also for investors. Eco-effective automotive companies can potentially lower their raw material costs and generate more sustainable returns.

While traditional environmentalism chants a reduction mantra (reduce, reuse, recycle), the cradle-to-cradle theory is rooted in capitalism, which encourages growth. Environmentalists often focus on how products degrade the environment. Reconciling growth with environmental preservation, and by envisioning products that are in harmony with the earth’s cycles of regeneration is the secret.

The cradle-to-cradle theory almost conveys a sense of inevitability for the automotive industry. Automotive investors with foresight can support the transformation from an economy that presages its own funeral (cradle-to-grave) to an economy that celebrates its perpetual reincarnation (cradle-to-cradle). And these investors can profit financially while encouraging the adaptation of a truly sustainable form of automotive capitalism.

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