AMA: Circular Economy & The Future of Material Recycling in the Automotive Industry

Join Our Exclusive Ask Me Anything Session with Jean-Denis Curt on Circular Economy & Automotive Recycling

Date & Time: March 7th, 2024 | 15:00 - 16:30 CET

Location: Online Event (register here)

The automotive sector stands at a pivotal juncture, facing the dual challenges of rapid technological evolution and increasing environmental pressures. As the industry moves towards more sustainable practices, understanding the role of circular economy becomes paramount.

We are excited to announce an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session with Jean-Denis Curt, a leading figure in Circular Economy, Strategic Materials, and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) at Renault Group. With extensive expertise in the field, Jean-Denis will offer invaluable insights into the challenges and opportunities of material recycling within the automotive industry, focusing on the potential of old vehicles as valuable resources and innovative approaches to recycling electric vehicle batteries.

This exclusive event, hosted by Edgeryders in the framework of the TREASURE project, offers an unparalleled opportunity to engage with Jean-Denis Curt on the pressing issues and exciting opportunities in automotive recycling and sustainability.

This event is a must-attend for:

  • Automotive Professionals looking to integrate sustainable practices into their operations.

  • Sustainability Advocates keen on understanding circular economy applications in the automotive industry.

  • Curious Minds interested in the future directions of automotive technology and environmental impact mitigation.

Event Highlights:

  • Introduction by Edgeryders: Setting the stage for an insightful discussion.
  • Expert Presentation: A 30-minute deep dive into key topics by Jean-Denis Curt, shedding light on the intricacies of sustainable practices in the automotive sector.
  • Interactive Q&A Session: Spanning 30 to 60 minutes, this segment offers you the chance to ask Jean-Denis your burning questions and explore further into the subject matter.


Don’t miss out on this opportunity to engage with an industry expert. Please register here to secure your spot.

Prepare for the Event:

We invite you to come prepared with your questions to make the most out of this session. Help us tailor the discussion to your interests by answering these questions.

About Treasure

TREASURE (leading the TRansion of the European Automotive SUpply chain towards a circulaR futurE) is a 3-year- Research and Innovation Action co-funded by the European Commission under the H2020 programme willing to offer new opportunities for testing innovative technologies to make the automotive sector more circular. Within Treasure, Edgeryders is creating a community-driven model of addressing social aspects related with circular design practices. We want to develop new knowledge on how circular economy plays out in society, economy and everyday life, the points of view of the people directly affected by circular economy.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101003587

Kálovics Péter

What is your background or area of expertise? (e.g., engineer, sustainability consultant, industry enthusiast)
Sustainability project manager, EV car owner

Share your initial thoughts on circular economy and the future of material recycling in the automotive industry
The most expensive component of the EV cars, the battery should be reuse, refurbish or repair by 99.9%

What burning question do you have for the Q&A session?
Can you push national laws and legislation to repair the minimum damage EV batteries? In my country there are a lot of rusty, damaged ones. After an accident it can be hazmat landfill only.

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Shumail Mazahir

What is your background or area of expertise? (e.g., engineer, sustainability consultant, industry enthusiast)
I am an Assistant Professor and Researcher in the area of Operations and Supply Chain Management at SKEMA Business School. I have a background in Manufacturing Engineering and a PhD from HEC Paris. I worked for 3 years at McGill University on a project on circular economy for innovative industry.

Share your initial thoughts on circular economy and the future of material recycling in the automotive industry
I started working on the circular economy in my dissertation, and since then I am working on it because I am convinced that circular economy is milestone for environmental sustainability.

What burning question do you have for the Q&A session?
I am intrigued by the prospects of a circular economy in the presence of product innovations and design changes. The principle of circular economy is to reuse products/parts/materials for as long as possible, but if the new version of our product no longer needs the material we harvested from the post-consumer product. This is especially relevant for “Made to be Remade initiatives,” where the idea is to use components/parts from used products. Do you think it is a future challenge? What can be done to overcome it?

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Hi Jean-Denis,

thank you for this great presentation.
I would like to know your point of view on the design needs of the recuperation of precious and rare metals from car electronics?
Which particular policies should be implemented and is a convergence on standardisation of the car producers possible?

Also, in Renault’s experience, what are the main difficulties of harvesting these metals in the recycling process, and how have you solved them?

Also, as a CE person, is there an ideal thing that should occur among the stakeholders, to make the path towards circularity easier?

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Dear Jean-Denis,

Many thanks for the very interesting presentation.

I would like to ask a question concerning the catalysts (Pt, Pd Ru) from end-of-life vehicles. You have showcased the example of Pt recovery from the combustion engines and its new employment into fuels cells. Given the highly dynamic nature of the catalyst and, in turn, the several trasnformative prcoess which occur on its surface and bulk structure during the reaction process, I was wondering if you could provide a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the catalysts’ comodieties regeneration process in terms of technical feasibility and cost-benefit analysis.
Many thanks in advance.

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Thank you, Jean-Denis, for your presentation.

My question is: something that has emerged in the interviews we have been doing at sustainability-focused events is that people have the impression that cars with electronic components are actually harder to adapt to circular economy than “older” cars because there are so many composite materials that are more challenging to disassemble and reuse. What are your thoughts on this?

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Bonjour Jean-Denis
thanks for your presentation.
What challenges do you face in increasing utilisation of recycled material (quality? volumes? cost? horizontal supply chain integration) ?

The future of more sustainable mobility is it not in smaller/lighter vehicles ? Do you influence directly design / engineering ?
Twizzy / Duo and Bento could become “mainstream” offering for most usage in our “urbanized society”.

Are other automotive manufacturers working with Renault aon those initiatives ?


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Jean-Denis, thank you very much for the insights and taking the time!

To increase the amount of recycled content in the products, it is especially important to persuade the suppliers and partners. How do you get them on board and how do you track the degree of circularity?

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Question From Caroline Samberger
thanks very much for your presentation. Do you have an impact and taking care of the potential circular economy of tyres into to production of carbon black for the manufacturing of new tyres for example?

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Hi @Fmpeti ,
summarizing Jean-Denis Curt’s answer during Q&A session he argued for the repairability and reusability of nearly all batteries (around 99%). His explanation focused on two key points:

First, workshops typically repair batteries, but there are exceptions. For example, Renault excludes batteries from severely impacted cars. Even if a battery appears functional, the crash might have caused internal damage that could lead to fire upon reuse. To prioritize safety, a threshold exists. Batteries experiencing a certain level of shock are recycled instead of repaired, even though they might seem salvageable. This caution stems from the relative newness of the electric vehicle industry and the lack of definitive diagnostic methods for serious crash damage. Efforts are underway to improve diagnostics for recovering more batteries.

Second, there’s currently no regulation mandating battery repairability. This is becoming problematic, especially with new market players. Traditionally, car design prioritizes repairability, allowing cars to last an average of 20 years in Europe (even longer when exported). However, some new manufacturers prioritize lower costs and produce non-repairable batteries, often in conjunction with cars that are themselves difficult to repair. No regulations currently prevent this practice. While such cars might be cheaper, consumers are unaware of the limitations regarding battery repair or even car repairability in general. Curt believes regulations mandating battery repairability are necessary to address this gap in the current system.

Hi @Shumail,
In response to your question during the Q&A session I am posting a summarized version of the answer.

Jean-Denis Curt acknowledged two key aspects: recycling and reuse.

Recycling presented fewer issues. Materials could be recovered and repurposed for new car production. However, legacy substances (banned materials) from older vehicles might pose a challenge, particularly for plastics. Strict regulations demanding zero traces of such substances could hinder plastic recycling. Acceptable trace levels, defined as safe and minimal, would be ideal for facilitating recycling.

Technological advancements impacted material needs. While some materials crucial for conventional vehicles weren’t essential for electric vehicles (and vice versa), materials from end-of-life vehicles could still be used in other applications. For instance, materials from electronics could contribute to electric vehicle battery production.

However, reuse presented a significant challenge. Reuse was only viable as long as vehicles on the road shared a model with those reaching their end-of-life. When a new car model launched, replacement parts for the older model might not be readily available. Conversely, when a large number of vehicles reached their end-of-life, there might not be a demand for their parts.

Reusing parts in new vehicles wasn’t a top priority for the industry, and he didn’t foresee a change. Regulations, he noted, could even hinder reuse efforts. Even for standardized components like tires, optimization for specific car models remained crucial. While Renault recently began selling refurbished tires in their after-sales network, their use in new cars remained limited. Ideally, refurbished tires could be offered as an option to customers, with clear communication regarding their equivalence to new tires, but with the caveat that they might not be specifically optimized for the car model. Overall, Jean-Denis is afraid that the challenge of reusing parts in new vehicles would likely persist for a long time.

Hi @ivan,
during the Q&A session Jean-Denis Curt answered your questions. Here is the summarized version:

Jean-Denis acknowledged electronics as a major obstacle to car circularity for several reasons.

Firstly, electronic components contained exotic materials in minute quantities. These components were scattered throughout modern cars, making manual disassembly during the dismantling process impractical or uneconomical. Additionally, the minuscule amounts of precious metals like gold made it difficult to pinpoint their location and precise quantity within a car.

A second challenge was supply chain transparency. The electronic supply chain’s complexity and obscurity made it difficult to track these materials. Transparency was essential to obtain declarations on material content and secure access to critical materials, like gallium and germanium, whose export restrictions by China could disrupt production.

Thirdly, measuring the environmental impact of electronics production remained challenging. Tracing the origin and production conditions of these components to ensure responsible practices proved difficult.

The challenges extended to recycling. Dispersed electronics with unknown material quantities, along with the presence of metals in minuscule amounts, rendered current recycling processes inadequate. Disassembling the car to collect electronics before shredding might prove marginally beneficial in some cases. However, even with improved sorting during post-shredding, some materials would likely be lost.

There wasn’t a perfect solution yet, but significant progress was possible. Proposed new car circularity legislation in Europe included mandatory dismantling of certain parts. This could be advantageous when post-shredding sorting couldn’t achieve the same level of material separation as manual dismantling. Extracting specific electronic components beforehand might be worthwhile in certain cases.

Recycling all materials from electronics remained difficult. While gold, platinum, and maybe silver could be recovered, others, present in negligible amounts, weren’t currently recycled. This challenge extended beyond cars and into the realm of electronics in general.

Potential solutions include legislation promoting supply chain traceability, eco-design initiatives for electronics, not just for cars & efforts to reduce the use of critical materials that ultimately wouldn’t be recycled

Overall, there is a big need for significant improvements in electronics design, material usage, and supply chain transparency to enhance car circularity.

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Hi @GiuliaBellini,
In response to your question on catalyst recycling from end-of-life vehicles during Q&A session, Jean-Denis Curt offered the following insights:

  • Recycling itself presented no significant challenges. Established partnerships with companies like Johnson Matthey ensured that used catalysts were refined back into high-purity materials like platinum, rhodium, and palladium. These recycled materials performed at the same level as virgin materials.
  • Refurbishing catalysts, however, proved more problematic. While ideal in concept, Renault engineers were unable to guarantee the performance of a refurbished catalyst without a complete understanding of its service history. This uncertainty prevented the widespread adoption of catalyst refurbishment.
  • There is a gap in after-sales regulations. Some repair shops offered cheaper, lower-quality catalyst replacements containing less precious metal. These replacements compromised emission standards, allowing vehicles to emit significantly more pollutants. Ideally, stricter regulations would mandate that all replacement catalysts meet the same emission standards as original parts.

Overall, Jean-Denis emphasized the success of catalyst recycling but acknowledged the need for improved quality control during after-sales maintenance to ensure consistent performance and reduced emissions.

Hi @Nica,
In response to your question during the AMA session with Jean-Denis I am writing you a summarized version of his answer:

Jean-Denis acknowledged aspects related to repair that he hadn’t previously addressed. Recycling electronics proved difficult due to the intricate mix and minute quantities of materials. While some electronics could be recycled, others wouldn’t be, and some might never reach recycling plants.

From a circular economy standpoint, electronics posed a greater challenge than other car parts like mechanical components. This difficulty stemmed from several factors:

  • Rapid evolution: Electronic components constantly evolved, with multiple generations potentially existing within a single car’s lifespan.
  • Compatibility issues: Even within the same car model, components from newer vehicles might not be compatible with older ones due to software or hardware changes.
  • Design limitations: Electronics weren’t typically designed for repairability, and production often occurred in low-cost countries with high labor costs in Western Europe hindering the economic viability of repairs. Diagnosing and repairing electronics could easily reach the cost of a new component, mirroring situations with consumer electronics.

Despite these challenges, Renault was initiating repair efforts for certain essential and expensive car electronics components. The focus was on components involved in the design process, rather than standardized parts purchased by multiple carmakers.

The significant challenges are associated with electronics in cars, but Renault is putting efforts into exploring repair possibilities for certain components.

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Hi @AsimShah,
during the Q&A session you shortened your questions due to other people participating and you were interested in potential discussions or initiatives that Renault has with other car makers in order to achieve higher sustainability in the industry.

Here’s a breakdown of Jean-Denis Curt’s response:

  • Renault collaborates with various companies on circular economy initiatives, including large corporations, medium-sized businesses, and startups. However, they haven’t established significant collaborations with direct competitors in this specific area yet.

  • Economies of scale are crucial. To achieve this, Renault created a subsidiary called “Future is Neutral.” This subsidiary won’t be solely owned by Renault and will be open to other investors. The goal is to provide circular economy services to other carmakers, including recycling, end-of-life vehicle management, battery services (collection, recycling, repair), and component remanufacturing. By servicing multiple carmakers, Future is Neutral aims to scale up operations and optimize efficiency.

  • Openness to collaboration with competitors exists. While there aren’t any signed agreements yet, Renault is receptive to partnerships. For instance, they could handle refurbishing and repairing used cars from other brands within a specific region, like the Paris area. Similarly, this collaboration could extend to battery repair, with each company handling repairs in their respective regions.

While Renault hasn’t established major collaborations with competitors on circular economy initiatives yet, they are actively exploring these possibilities. The creation of Future is Neutral underscores their commitment to scaling up solutions and their openness to working with other carmakers.

Hi @rafael,

Unfortunately, you weren’t there to hear your answer live during the Q&A session. Therefore, I am sending you the shortened version of the answer to your question:

A few years ago, Renault struggled to increase the use of recycled materials in their cars. Suppliers, lacking similar demands from other carmakers, often had just one production process (especially for plastics). This made it difficult for them to accommodate Renault’s focus on recycled materials while meeting the needs of clients who didn’t prioritize it.

Thankfully, the situation is evolving positively. Here’s what’s contributing to the change:

  • More receptive suppliers: Most major suppliers (Tier One) are now showing a willingness to work with recycled and low-carbon footprint materials. They’re proposing solutions to Renault and collaborating on closed-loop recycling initiatives. This shift might be due, in part, to similar requests from other car manufacturers, suggesting a more sustainable industry-wide approach.
  • Regulations on the horizon: Upcoming regulations, particularly for plastics, will require a minimum percentage of recycled content in new cars by 2031 or 2032. Proposed regulations might mandate as much as 25% post-consumer recycled plastics, a significant increase from Renault’s current best car which uses 20% recycled plastics (including pre-consumer materials and only 10% post-consumer). While stricter regulations will necessitate continued efforts to motivate suppliers, they provide a clear direction for the future.
  • Collaboration is key: Collaboration with suppliers is becoming smoother, with some taking a proactive approach and proposing ambitious joint projects focused on sustainability. This highlights the growing industry focus on eco-friendly solutions.
  • Customer demand matters: Public interest in cars with sustainable and recycled materials strengthens Renault’s internal position. Demonstrating customer care for these features provides a compelling argument for engineers, buyers, and suppliers to prioritize using recycled materials in car production.

In conclusion, the challenges Renault faced in incorporating recycled materials are diminishing. A more receptive supplier base, upcoming regulations, and a growing emphasis on collaboration and customer demand are paving the way for a future where car manufacturing embraces greater sustainability.

You can also check the video of Q&A session at this link:

Hi Caroline @Samberger,

During the Q&A session you first wanted to tackle the matter on a crucial point regarding Jean-Denis Curt’s previous comment about “buying circular cars” emphasizing the need for consumers to understand the car’s circularity level. Saying that without clear information, it’s difficult for them to prioritize a circular car over a non-circular one.

In that regard Jean-Denis acknowledged this as a valid point and offered potential solutions:

  • Traceability Challenges: Currently, tracking the use of recycled materials throughout the supply chain remains a challenge. While plastic usage can be traced to a certain extent through supplier declarations, complete traceability from waste origin is difficult. Collaboration across the entire supply chain, potentially facilitated by new European regulations, is essential for improvement.
  • Communication Efforts: Renault is starting to communicate the use of recycled materials more effectively, as exemplified by their recent presentation on a new electric car highlighting the use of 40kg of recycled plastic (20% of total plastic content). However, without a clear industry standard for comparison, it’s difficult for consumers to gauge how “good” this is.
  • Regulation as a Driver: Mandatory declarations and standardized definitions are crucial. Currently, there’s a lack of clear standards for terms like “circular” and “recycled material.” Even for plastics, there’s room for interpretation. For metals, the situation is worse – suppliers often declare different types of scrap rather than explicitly stating “recycled materials.” Clear standards would define what constitutes “recycled” and establish procedures for auditing and control. While Renault is open to contributing financially to audits, the burden shouldn’t fall solely on them.
  • Labeling vs. Standardization: While you suggested a labeling system similar to appliance energy ratings (ABCD), Jean-Denis emphasized the need for standardization in accounting and mandatory declarations based on clear, industry-wide definitions.

Following that answer, you posed a question regarding the tires - Is there anything that you are doing to recover tires and creating materials such as carbon black to actually manufacture new tires?

Jean-Denis responded on tire use and Renault’s approach to sustainability:

Tire Recovery and Challenges:

  • All tires sold with Renault vehicles are recovered through product responsibility organizations (PROs) or recycling fees.
  • However, true “recycling” of these tires, where materials are used to create new tires, isn’t currently happening. The technical challenges associated with this process are significant.
  • Recent news regarding Michelin’s potential tire recycling plant development is promising.

Renault’s Refurbished Tire Initiative:

  • In a pioneering move, Renault is the first carmaker to sell refurbished tires. These tires undergo a process similar to remanufacturing. The used tire’s structure is retained (around 80% of the materials), and a new, high-quality rubber layer is applied.
  • The “Leonard” brand is produced in BĂ©thune, France, at a former premium tire factory. This facility leverages industrial processes to ensure the refurbished tires meet the same standards as new tires.
  • Legal hurdles currently prevent Renault from including these refurbished tires on new vehicles, but they are available through Renault’s after-sales network.

Tire Recycling and Collaboration:

  • While Renault isn’t directly involved in tire recycling initiatives, they acknowledge the importance of these efforts, especially considering the environmental impact of carbon black production (a key tire material) and recent supply chain disruptions due to the war in Ukraine.
  • Collaboration with tire manufacturers on sustainable tire design and material usage is ongoing.

Limited Control over Tire Production:

  • Unlike some car parts, Renault has less control over tire production processes. Tires are designed to meet specific fuel consumption standards for Renault vehicles, but the material content and overall eco-design are determined by the tire manufacturers.
  • This limited control highlights Renault’s focus on promoting refurbished tires as a viable solution within their sphere of influence.

The last question was asked by Timileyin Ayomide Olanipekun.
Timileyin acknowledged the crucial role of recycling in combating climate change and achieving carbon neutrality. He expressed concern about maintaining a healthy supply of raw materials if everyone prioritizes recycling and wanted to know:

  • How do we determine the right balance between primary raw materials and recycled materials to achieve near-100% recycling rates?
  • How can we ensure a sustainable flow of materials by balancing supply from mining with the growing recycling sector?

Jean-Denis Curt clarified Timileyin’s concern and pointed out that the current situation is far from an overabundance of recycled materials:

  • Currently, the world extracts vast amounts of raw materials, with only a small percentage (around 7%) being recycled globally.
  • This holds true across various industries, not just automotive. Even for plastics and electronics, recycling rates are very low.

Therefore, the issue isn’t a shortage of raw materials for recycling, but rather a need to significantly increase recycling efforts. He sees the rise of recycling as a positive trend:

  • It can help stabilize or even decrease the reliance on raw material extraction in the long run.
  • This is particularly important for materials like copper, where future mine exhaustion could pose a supply challenge.

The whole answer can be seen in this video:

Hi Bojan,
Thank you very much for the good summary!
I truly enjoyed listening to the webcast with Jean-Denis, but unfortunately had to leave earlier.
Great event nevertheless!

Best regards


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Hi @rafael
I am glad that you enjoyed! In the link I’ve sent you you can check the rest of the presentation.

Also, feel free to post here or discuss with other participants the questions that were raised during the event.

You can also check our other discussion topics on this link: