Kia to build its future EVs with recycled ocean plastic
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Sep 1, 2023
Mehanaz Yakub

Kia, through its partnership with The Ocean Cleanup, is recycling 55 tonnes of plastic from the Pacific Ocean to incorporate into its future EVs

Kia intends to turn a portion of the plastic material into various components that will be integrated into the interiors of future fully electric Kia vehicles. Photo: Kia

Kia, through its partnership with The Ocean Cleanup, is recycling 55 tonnes of plastic from the Pacific Ocean to incorporate into its future EVs

Kia Corp. will recycle plastic from a record-breaking 55-tonne haul collected from the Pacific Ocean in the production of its upcoming electric vehicles.

The South Korean auto manufacturer made the announcement this week. The move is part of the automaker’s sustainability strategy.

“The record catch of plastics brought to shore by The Ocean Cleanup for recycling is tangible proof of how technology can deliver sustainable solutions at scale,” says Charles Ryu, senior vice-president and head of the Global Brand & CX Division at Kia Corp., in a press statement.

“Initiatives such as this one perfectly align with Kia’s transition to a sustainable mobility solutions provider and our Plan S strategy, through which we embrace the needs of our customers and the protection of our environment by acting as a responsible corporate citizen.”

The 55 tonnes of ocean plastic comes from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). The Ocean Cleanup collects waste using its proprietary System 002 extraction technology — a containment boom system that is dragged across the water.

The GPGP is the world’s largest accumulation of floating waste. It covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometres and is located between Hawaii and California.

The Ocean Cleanup dropped off the collected waste in Victoria, B.C., in August. It set a new record for the largest amount of plastic ever recovered from an ocean.

The captured plastic will undergo a recycling process “shortly,” says Kia. The automaker intends to turn the plastic material into components in the interiors of future fully electric Kia vehicles.

The automaker’s Plan S strategy was formed in 2020. It is a move to shift the company’s focus towards electric vehicle development and sustainable mobility solutions.

Turning waste into sustainable innovation

The Ocean Cleanup is an international non-profit organization that clears plastic waste from oceans. Kia’s relationship with it goes back to April 2022.

In a seven-year partnership agreement, Kia offers financial support to The Ocean Clean Up.

When it formed the agreement, Kia said the partnership would play a key role in its vision for a sustainable mobility future. It also committed that “plastic harvested by The Ocean Cleanup will be recycled in Kia’s production process, creating a virtuous recycling loop.”

Kia plans to use up to 20 percent recycled plastic in its EVs by 2030. The automaker also hopes to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

In its current vehicles, Kia already uses recycled PET plastic to make fabrics and carpets. It also uses a bio-based leather alternative and paint that does not include harmful BTX chemicals.

In its new Concept EV9 vehicle, Kia incorporated recycled fishing nets into its flooring. The seat fabric is a blend of recycled plastic bottles and wool fibres.

For the Kia EV6, the automaker has used cloth and matting that incorporates recycled plastics which, it says, is equivalent to reusing 111 plastic water bottles.

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