Japanese auto maker Toyota has been working with industry partners to define a world-first system to retrieve and recycle copper from vehicle wiring harnesses. Toyota and its project partners Yazaki and Toyota Tsusho began working with eight specialist vehicle dismantling businesses in Japan in 2010 on a wide-ranging programme that included establishing quality requirements for pre-processing vehicles that have reached the end of their useful life.
Previously it had not been possible to recycle harnesses for their copper content using mechanical methods, but an year later, the manufacturer came up with a new sorting method that safeguards the metal from contamination by minute impurities during the dismantling process. Trials were subsequently launched at its Honsha plant in 2013, and after stringent quality checks, the retrieved copper was successfully reintroduced into the vehicle production process.
The initiative has delivered recycled metal with 99.96 percent purity, a level which can secure stable production quality. Toyota estimates as much as 1,000 tonnes of copper can be produced annually using the new process.