Supporting the adoption of recycled materials in automotive with digital olfaction

By Fanny Turlure

The automotive industry is undergoing a sustainability revolution. Overall concern for climate change and the environment has caused industry players of all sizes to rethink their approach to car manufacturing, beyond just reducing carbon emissions. More than ever before, consumers prioritize sustainability when purchasing a new car, and as a result original equipment manufacturers (OEM) have an urgency to think outside the box to stay competitive and be seen as innovative and environment-conscious in consumers’ eyes. Compounding the issue are growing government interventions, such as the Directive on End of Life Vehicles in the EU, that will regulate the recycled content for certain plastic components of new vehicles. These initiatives have the potential to fundamentally change the way new cars are designed and built.

To address these added sustainability pressures, manufacturers are making big changes in the materials they use, looking to replace toxic and wasteful parts with recycled plastics and vegan leathers. Volvo is one car manufacturer leading the way in this regard, stating “it will go leather-free by 2030 and use a material it developed called Nordico that consists of textiles made from recycled material such as PET bottles, bio-attributed material from sustainable forests in Sweden and Finland and corks recycled from the wine industry.” Audi has also made changes, using recycled plastic bottles to account for 89% of the seat material in their fourth-generation A3 car.


The odor challenge & how digital olfaction can help

While car manufacturers are well on their way to incorporating more environmentally friendly and recycled materials long-term, there are still some challenges – such as product odor – that need to be addressed. Recycled plastics have what many call “a scent memory;” they carry over smells from their first life – whether it’s the odor from detergents, gasoline, or foods and beverages. Vegan leathers, beyond not releasing the usual leather smell, can often emit a fishy odor. These smells can make it difficult for manufacturers to meet certain olfaction ratings set by OEMs to ensure that consumers are not met with any unwanted odors in their newly purchased cars.

This is where digital olfaction technology can help. By mimicking the human sense of smell through machine learning and artificial intelligence, digital olfaction can quickly assess recycled car materials to ensure product quality and identify any unwanted odors. The technology can then help screen materials so manufacturers can better predict which recycled materials perform best (from an odor and quality control perspective), providing easy-to-implement data and workflows to help support car manufacturers as they evolve their products to meet sustainability demands.

Manufacturers across industries are leveraging digital olfaction to help support their sustainability efforts. Learn more about how Aryballe helps support the development of plant based alternatives in meats here.