It takes an estimated 10,000 chemicals to manufacture an automobile, many of which are left in the final product. Under REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) the automotive industry has a major challenge on its hands to communicate policies and regulations to a complex, global supply chain. Close to 3,000 suppliers work with vehicle manufacturers on products that may include more than 8,000 major components. The automotive supply chain typically has up to seven tiers, and direct suppliers to car manufacturers have up to 1,500 sub-suppliers spanning many continents. Therefore, when REACH regulations remove a chemical from these massive supply chains it can take a long time to implement. Advancements in the methods used to do chemical tracking through the supply chain are allowing the automobile industry to explore new opportunities and reduce negative environmental impacts. 

    Chemical Tracking Throughout the Automotive Supply Chain

    REACH is a regulation enacted to protect human health and the environment from chemicals contained in manufactured goods that are either produced in the European Union or imported to the EU. It also bans certain chemicals that have detrimental effects on human and environmental well-being known as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC).  

    Chemical materials must be tracked at many points in the supply chain—namely in the design/manufacturing phase all the way to shipping to accurately gage their environmental impact. The list of SVHCs are regularly updated by the European Chemical Association; therefore, chemical tracking becomes important to stay in compliance and to manage your entire supply chain. Automakers make large investments in product cycles and automobile development, with the usual car having a 4-5 year lead time, 6-7 year production run, and spare parts available for at least 10 years after the product is released. Chemicals legislation puts significant responsibility on companies to communicate, notify, and phase-out substances of concern throughout the supply chain. Consequently, the automotive industry continues to grow alongside the demands of the government regulatory bodies through key measures to communicate chemical information throughout the supply chain.

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    IMDS, GADSL, and the End of Life for Vehicles

    The International Material Data System (IMDS) is a global data storehouse that contains all materials present in finished automobile products throughout the manufacturing process. The 2000/52/ EG guideline on end-of-life vehicles and the German End-of-Life Vehicle Directive formed the basis for the creation of IMDS. Information for materials are collected, maintained, analysed, and archived. The IMDS is a partnership of Audi, BMW, Ford, Opel, DaimlerChrysler, Porsche, GM, VW, and the Swedish firm Volvo. The three main objectives of the IMDS are:

    1. To limit the usage of hazardous substances in the design phase of vehicle and onward.
    2. To encourage the automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to design and manufacture new vehicles so that they can be dismantled easily and thoroughly.
    3. To increase the amount of recycled material that is used in vehicles and other products.

    Some manufacturers use the IMDS for reporting requirements of national and international standards and laws and regulations—such as REACH for the EU. The IMDS reveals hazardous and controlled substances for OEMs to trace each hazardous substance to the exact part.

    The Global Automotive Stakeholder Group (GASG) is a collective of manufacturers, tier suppliers, and material suppliers that created the Global Automotive Declarable Substance List (GADSL). The GADSL also formed the basis for the declaration in the IMDS. It facilitates worldwide communication and flow of information between companies of the automotive supplier chain, which helps in efficient compliance and reporting. The information from the GADSL can be used in the production of a vehicle up to its end of life.

    End of life planning for vehicles help producers manufacture new vehicles with recyclability in mind. The process of recycling a vehicle is complicated due to several parts that must be recycled and heavy metals that need to be removed. The End of Life Vehicle directive states that manufacturers are obligated to: 

    • Make technical information available relating to materials used in vehicle construction. 
    • Apply the reusability/ recyclability/ recoverability calculation method to all vehicle types. The ELV directive states that the reuse and recovery must increase to a minimum of 95 % by an average weight per vehicle and year at the start of January 2015. Within the same time limit, the re-use and recycling shall be increased to a minimum of 85 % by an average weight per vehicle and year.         

    In the United States, by some estimates 94-100% of all vehicles are recycled and 82% of the vehicle is reused or recycled. In fact, Toyota claims the 2010 Toyota Prius is 85% recyclable, Lexus makes the same 85% recyclable claim about the 2010 Lexus HS 250h hybrid sedan, and all Volvo cars have been 85% recyclable since 2002. French car maker Renault created a car that is 90% recyclable and now all Renault cars are made from 30% recycled materials. The automotive recycling industry is an important industry with over $32 billion in annual sales in America with automobiles cited as one of the most recycled consumer products.

    Sustainable end of life for vehicle directives coupled with chemical information from REACH, IMDS, and GADSL have created innovations in the automotive industry. Today automotive innovation is expanding to reduce its negative environmental impact and improve the quality and safety of products throughout the entire vehicle life cycle. Chemical tracking is critical as society moves toward a more comprehensive approach to chemical management. Governments and regulatory bodies are now demanding industries become more responsible and adaptable to changing regulations and rising environmental threats. The exchange of chemical information and tools like the IMDS and the GADSL enable the automotive supply chain to intelligently create, re-use, and recycle vehicles to be more sustainable in our ever-changing world.

    How ERA Improves Chemical Tracking 

    ERA offers Chemical Management using our Product Specifications database to generate accurate chemical information and calculations for reporting and compliance with state, federal, and international bodies. Oil & gas, automotive, and many other industries rely on ERA for our comprehensive chemical management system. The ERA-EMS software also comes with a Master Chemical List that includes regulations and the most current information regarding environmental regulations for over 100,000 chemicals. The ERA platform comes with TRI, NPRI, Tier II, NESHAP, MACT, DMRs, Emission Inventory reports all included, in addition to:

    • Greenhouse Gas Emissions – The release of key gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases that are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
    • VOCs –The amount of Volatile Organic Compounds, which are utilized in the production, manufacturing and treatment processes, and which must be reported to the EPA.
    • Air, Water and Waste – Key information breaking down emissions, releases and produced waste across your environmental module

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    This Blog was Co-Authored By: 


    Carla Samuel
    Post by Carla Samuel
    July 20, 2018
    Carla Samuel is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.