Ford’s recycling and remanufacturing program has kept 120 million pounds of damaged vehicle parts from landfills since 2003, effectively ending the days when the crack of a headlamp or crunch of a bumper would render useless such components.
The Core Recovery Program oversees collection, remanufacturing and recycling of damaged parts – everything from small sensors and fuel injectors to large engine parts – from Ford vehicles that have been repaired through the company’s dealer network.
In the last nine years, about 120 million pounds have been collected in the U.S. and approximately 3 million pounds can be attributed to the 36 Ford dealers who participate in the program in Arizona.
“As a business operator, it is our responsibility to utilize our resources properly and maintain sustainable practices,” said John Bernath, director of fixed operations at San Tan Ford in Gilbert, Ariz. “We have been recycling oil and petroleum products for years and with the Core Recovery Program, we are changing the way we do business. One key benefit of the program is that parts can be inspected for failures and changes can be made to future products increasing the quality of the overall vehicle.”
The list of parts recycled or remanufactured continues to grow. In the last two years, bumpers and headlights were added to the list. In the short time since, about 62,000 bumpers have been collected while about 26,000 headlights have been recycled.
“Most parts that come back to us through the program still have a lot of life left,” says Kim Goering, manager of Ford’s remanufacturing and recycling programs. “That makes a strong business case to do whatever we can to extend the life of these components. Even more important, however, is that Ford strongly believes it’s just the right thing to do from an environmental perspective.”
Ford has remanufactured parts for decades, but it formed the Core Recovery Program in 2003. The impetus was that there were too many different collection methods being used in various parts of the company, making it too hard and confusing for all the parties involved – from the dealers to those managing Ford’s supply chain.
Other factors led to the creation of the Core Recovery Program: Vehicle components, for example, have become increasingly complex and expensive, making it more important than ever to recycle and reuse parts whenever possible.
Take the headlight portion of the program: As recently as 15 years ago, headlights were pretty basic and utilitarian – consisting mostly of a bulb, a glass lens and a reflector.
Now, typical headlight assemblies are almost two feet wide and have become a major part of the vehicle, both in terms of design and function – consisting of not just a few parts, but expensive plastics, advanced bulb technology, additional wiring harnesses and more.
The headlight portion of the program started in November 2011. In its first year alone, about 26,000 units were reclaimed and every single part of the headlamp is recycled.
In fact, more than 85 percent of each Ford vehicle today is recyclable, with more and more parts being kept from landfills.
Bumpers, for example, are now collected and sent to a third party where they are processed into pellets that can then be used to make brand-new products. Since 2010, about 62,000 bumpers have been recycled through the program.
“These bumpers are typically between five and six feet long and can yield as much as 20 pounds of material after they have been processed,” said Goering. “That adds up fast and makes it pretty easy to see how much of an impact the program makes – and that’s with just one category.”
How it’s done
Dealers pay a core charge on each new part bought from Ford to replace a damaged one. When the original damaged part is returned to Ford, the dealer gets the money from the core charge back – operating exactly like bottle return systems do in some parts of the United States.
San Tan Ford in Gilbert, Ariz., as an example, recycled 1,732 different core parts last year totaling more than $326,000 in core charges.
To collect the damaged and broken parts from dealers, Ford works with distributors strategically located around the country, such as Guarantee Parts Distributor in Phoenix. The 32,000-square-foot center serves as the central collection point for all Arizona-based Ford dealerships.
Ford uses a proprietary system involving bar codes and scanners to keep track of every single part collected. Once collected, each part is evaluated for either recycling or remanufacturing potential.
Parts recycled are sent to third-party processors and the raw material is resold.
When parts are remanufactured, they are cleaned, machined and tested to meet Ford quality standards. Like the raw material that comes from recycling, the parts that are remanufactured can then be sold or used in new applications. In the rare instances when recycling or remanufacturing is not an option, Ford ensures proper disposal.
Goering says that whether parts are recycled or remanufactured, the Core Recovery Program has been profitable for Ford – and that it could grow even more.
“As the vehicle population grows, so does our business,” she says. “We are always considering the business case for different products, which is quite a task when you think about the sheer quantity and complexity of the parts going into today’s vehicles.”
More information about the Ford Core Recovery Program can be found in a video posted here. More information about Ford’s overall sustainability can be found here.