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© ralphhuygen-dreamstime.com General | April 07, 2014

Toyota and partners develop copper recycling technology

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) has developed a technology for recycling the copper contained in wiring harnesses, in collaboration with Yazaki Corporation, Toyota Tsusho Corporation, and eight other companies.
Roughly 40 years’ worth of mineable copper resources remain worldwide, while global consumption is growing, driven particularly by infrastructure-related demand for wiring in emerging markets. In addition, large amounts of copper are used in the motors of hybrid vehicles, which are becoming increasingly popular.

When wiring harnesses are removed from end-of-life vehicles under conventional methods, it is extremely difficult to separate the copper from the fuse box and other components. As a result, it has not been possible until now to recycle harnesses using mechanical sorting methods.

In 2010, however, TMC, Yazaki, Toyota Tsusho and their partners began collaboration in a number of areas, including establishing pre-processing quality requirements for dismantling companies. In 2011, TMC developed a mechanical sorting method that can prevent contamination from minute impurities. Trial production involving small amounts of recycled copper began at TMC’s Honsha Plant in 2013. Once quality had been assessed by Yazaki, the copper was introduced to the wiring harness manufacturing line. Stable production involving recycled copper has been achieved, and annual production of recycled copper using this method will increase to approximately 1'000 tons in 2016.

This new technology is the result of TMC’s first collaboration with parts makers and dismantling companies in Japan on next-generation recycling systems. Toyota will continue to enhance this technology while reducing costs and expanding collaborative efforts. Furthermore, Toyota will create an ongoing next-generation recycling project with parts makers and dismantling companies with the aim of fostering a recycling-based society. This, in addition to other resource recycling initiatives, will become a new source of competitiveness for Toyota and other involved companies as they combat resource depletion. The newly-developed technology produces copper with a purity of 99.96 percent.

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