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Making Cars Greener, One Renewable, Recyclable Material at a Time


A few years ago, I was gifted a bag that was sewn from recycled seat belts. It was a little heavy – the clasp was made out of a seat buckle – but it was very sturdy and helped me fit in with the hipsters in our neighbourhood.

Seatbelts aren’t the only things that get recycled from old cars – these days, as we outlined in our Recycle Your Ride post last year, most of your car can be recycled into a variety of useful products. But we don’t often hear about the cool recycled and renewable materials that car manufacturers are using to make new cars more lightweight and generally more Earth-friendly.

In honour of Earth Day last week, here are a few of the renewable and recycled materials you may find in your next – or current – vehicle.


Soybean seat foam. Ford pioneered the use of seat foam made from soybean oil (instead of the usual petroleum-based foam) back in 2007. In fact, since 2011, every Ford vehicle made in North America has had soybean foam seat backs and cushions. Using soybean oil to make the foam has helped Ford decrease its annual CO2 emissions by 20 million pounds. Kia and Hyundai also use soybean foam in select models.

Recycled tires. Remember how hard cars are driven on the automotive proving grounds? Well, once the tires on the test cars are worn out, several car manufacturers recycle the rubber in those tires to make underhood parts, like air and water baffles.

Bioplastics. Car manufacturers like Toyota, Lexus and Ford are all using some kind of bioplastics – plastics derived from, or reinforced by, renewable plant materials like rice husks or sugarcane - in their cars.

Recycled fabric. Many car manufacturers, like Nissan and Ford, are using fabric made of recycled water bottles for their seat covers. Dodge is repurposing denim fabric in the trunk liner of their Dart. The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf both use recycled fabric as sound dampening material.


For a more complete run down of vehicle manufacturers and their various uses of recycled or renewable materials, check out this article on

Is your vehicle on that list? Do you know what parts of your vehicle are recycled or made from renewable resources? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.


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