Luxury cars and plastic waste don’t sound like obvious bedfellows. After all, cars are predominantly made out of metal, not plastic. Plus, luxury car manufacturer Bentley Motors is renowned for its use of natural materials such as sustainably sourced wood and leather interiors. Still, for Bentley, every detail is important: the UK-based luxury car manufacturer is determined to go the extra mile to reduce its small but not meaningless plastic footprint as part of the company’s ongoing environmental initiatives and Bentley’s Beyond100 strategy to achieve end-to-end carbon neutrality by 2030.
Here’s how South Pole’s circular economy experts supported Bentley with its plastic stewardship strategy.
In 2022, the car manufacturer set a new, unprecedented standard in the industry: achieving ‘Net Zero Plastic to Nature’. This involved an ambitious strategy to reduce the plastics Bentley generates through two actions: (1) an internal reduction of the volumes and types of plastics the company uses, and (2) addressing its unavoidable plastic waste through investing in and building plastic waste collection infrastructure in regions where this does not currently exist.
What plastics do passenger cars produce? Well, while the cars themselves don’t generate any visible plastic waste, the tyres release microplastics whenever the car is driven. These pernicious microplastics are released directly into the environment, often ending up in waterways or the ocean, where they pose a serious threat to biodiversity.
These aren’t the only plastics to worry about: Bentley also has to consider the plastics bound up in its value chain. Bentley suppliers often protect incoming car parts using plastic packaging, and parts of the finished vehicles are usually wrapped in plastic when they’re shipped to Bentley dealerships around the world. To achieve the objective of contributing ‘Net Zero Plastic to Nature’, it was important to understand where these materials become waste, and what actually happens to the plastics once they’ve been used.
This is what the team at South Pole began to upack with Bentley.
Tyres release tiny microplastics whenever they are used.
To protect both its cars and their parts, plastic made the most sense as a lightweight and low-CO2 material. This is the case for many companies in which the main products or services do not directly consist of plastic material. However, the impact of this operational plastic must still be assessed and addressed. The first step is measuring: understanding which types of plastic packaging Bentley and its suppliers were using and their end-of-life scenarios in the countries where these plastics become waste. The fate of any plastic waste depends on the local waste infrastructure in the country where it was disposed of – or on the lack thereof.
“Even the plastic binding we use to secure items on palettes has gone under the microscope, [and] we’ve carried out tests on a cardboard replacement to ensure that it is equally as effective,” says Peter Bosch, Member of the Board for Manufacturing at Bentley Motors.
Bentley now knows how much of its plastic is recycled, incinerated, landfilled or not processed – meaning plastic that’s possibly exported to low-income countries, disposed of at dumpsites or not collected at all. Using these footprint insights, South Pole then made recommendations to Bentley on how it could reduce its footprint and impact on the environment and engage its suppliers to do the same.
For the plastic that can’t be avoided, South Pole also has a solution. By purchasing certified units from carefully selected projects, companies can finance the construction of infrastructure to collect and recycle plastic in developing countries.
By buying the equivalent volume of certified units to address the amount of non-processed plastic waste from its operations and microplastic emissions in 2021, Bentley achieved the internationally recognised ‘Net Zero Plastic to Nature’ label. With each plastic credit purchased, Bentley funded the collection or recycling of 1 tonne of plastic waste that would otherwise have been left in the environment. Bentley chose to finance collection activities in India and Thailand. In India, Bentley supported rePurpose’s Neela Sagar project and in Thailand PUR Projet’s project Second Life Thailand.
“Our drive towards a plastic-free future is an essential part of our Beyond 100 strategy and this pioneering collaboration with South Pole has helped us evaluate the impact of the steps we’ve been taking to reduce and recycle plastic around our site by examining every aspect of our logistics value chain,” explains Peter Bosch.
For the rest of 2022, Bentley will continue to work on reducing the plastic in its operations, engaging its value chain and becoming more aware of the materials it uses.
Learn more about how to measure your plastic footprint and reduce your plastic footprint
(Banner Image: New Bentayga Hybrid | Credit: Bentley Motors). Luxury car manufacturer Bentley is supporting the recovery of plastics through investing in plastic waste collection infrastructure in Thailand and India.
Our drive towards a plastic-free future is an essential part of our Beyond 100 strategy and this pioneering collaboration with South Pole has helped us evaluate the impact of the steps we’ve been taking to reduce and recycle plastic around our site by examining every aspect of our logistics value chain.