My self-inflicted guilt over my beloved sports car has become much like beating a dead horse. I have felt bad that my Ford Mustang is a gas-guzzling animal — but boy, is it fun to drive — yet I continue to use it constantly. Could my car really be that bad for the environment? I took to a report card issued by Ecology Center, a national referee of sorts on toxic chemicals in cars. Its second annual Automotive Plastics Report grades eight leading manufacturers on their plastics policies and practices. Ford’s overall grade was a breath of fresh air; it rated second to Toyota, maker of the ever-popular Prius. So, what would happen if I went to have my parts recycled? I looked at the difference in points between Toyota and Ford. Bio-based materials are definitely a strong suit of Toyota. With the brand’s use of Eco Plastic, a sugar and corn substance, and an industry first of creating a plant to produce it, Toyota made the interior much less wasteful after being stripped for parts. Not to be outdone, Ford has developed a soy-based foam, and seating made of bio-fabric, made with genetically engineered bacteria that “eat odors, absorb sweat, and continually regenerate dirt and dust repellents.” Still, Toyota’s reduction of unused plastic made it a winner. Cars still have a long way to go for less of a reliance on plastic, though. The report recommends that automakers take the following measures:
  • Increase the use of sustainably sourced bio-based materials;
  • certify all vehicles to an interior air quality standard; and
  • accelerate efforts to eliminate problematic halogenated substances, such as PVC and brominated flame retardants.

Ford is now using Eco Plastic in several of its models.
While plastic is an important component of recycling vehicles, it is just one of many factors that make the automotive recycling business a $22-billion business annually, according to the Automotive Recyclers Association. Other big resources saved, other than new auto parts to service old cars, are oil and steel. Recycling vehicles has produced enough steel to make almost 13 million new vehicles. As far as oil dependence, by saving the oil that would have been spent on new or replacement parts, an estimated 85 million barrels of oil a year are spared. While this means more cars on the road and even less parking near my already squeezed-in parking situation for blocks and blocks by my apartment, it put my mind at ease about my Mustang. Still, when I’m ready to turn her in, I may just search for the right place to recycle my used oil filter and other parts by using 1-800-RECYCLING’s automotive recycling locator.