When a car’s glass breaks, it’s usually at the end of its useful life. Except for small “wounds”, cracked windows are not repaired but directly replaced with a new one. There is not yet a circular process to recycle this glass, something that Audi is ready to change with a pioneering pilot project that will recycle old and irreparable windows to turn them into the glass of the electric Audi Q4 e-tron.
Automakers are on their way to increasing their use of recycled materials to levels never seen before. It is a matter of environmental sustainability and the use of finite resources that are less and less abundant. With this pilot project, Audi wants to establish a closed cycle for the windows of its cars as part of the brand’s circular economy strategy. A project for which it has partnered with Reiling Glas Recycling, Saint-Gobain Glass and Saint-Gobain Sekurit, and which will consist of several stages.
The first step is the reception of the deteriorated moon, something that happens in the dealer network of the Volkswagen Group. The dealer determines if the glass can be repaired or not; if it cannot, it is replaced with a new one and the damaged glass is delivered to Reiling Glas Recycling. Reiling breaks the glass into small pieces and processes it to remove impurities as traces of glue; traces of PVB (polyvinyl butyral) plastic on the edges of the windows; metals; and cables, such as heating filament and antenna cables.
The resulting granulate is melted and then the production of glass plates is prepared. Until now, broken car windows have often been recycled into beverage bottles, with less stringent safety requirements than for a car. However, this project intends to reuse them with the same quality and safety as the original moon.
In the next stage of recycling, once the recycled glass has been processed and all possible waste materials have been removed, Saint-Gobain Glass converts it into glass plates. To do this, the glass granulate is initially separated according to its type to verify its origin and color and is stored in containers. The production of new base glass requires a glass recycling that is as pure and homogeneous as possible. Saint-Gobain Glass mixes recycled glass with, among other things, quartz sand, soda ash and chalk, the building blocks of glass. The proportion of recycled glass varies between 30 and 50 percent. The glass plate is first processed into rectangles of about 3 x 6 meters each. Then, through an additional process, Saint-Gobain Sekurit produces glass with the necessary safety standards to be installed in a car.
The three companies have agreed to carry out an initial one-year test in order to learn about the quality, stability and costs of the material. If glass can be economically recycled, glass made from recycled materials will be used in production Audi Q4 e-trons. The objective of the project is to produce about 40 tons of recycled glass.
Apart from the pilot project with Audi, Saint-Gobain Glass plans to produce 30,000 tons of glass fragments in the next three years, which will save considerable energy and natural resources, as well as reduce carbon emissions and the use of Water. Recycling emits up to 30% less carbon dioxide than manufacturing new glass, which will mean Saint-Gobain Glass will emit up to 75 tons less CO2 per day in a normal production day.