Can plants really be transformed into plastic? Despite the apparent incompatibility between natural and synthetic materials, Lexus has indeed achieved the seemingly impossible.
For many years Lexus models have been using soy-based and castor-seed-based materials, plus kenaf fibre mouldings within interior components – all specifically selected to meet specific requirements. But the advance we’re interested in for this post was the development of one particular eco-plastic for the CT 200h.
Called bio-PET, it is a new, environmentally sound material derived from the renewable and biodegradable resource of sugarcane.
Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is a common plastic in modern homes, and easily identified by the number ‘1’ inside the triangular recycling icon at the bottom of plastic containers. Though PET can be recycled, the monoethylene glycol it’s made of comes from petroleum, which is not a renewable resource. The ‘bio’ part of bio-PET therefore means that the raw source material is biological and renewable; in this instance, derived from sugarcane.
It’s a triple-whammy of eco-consciousness for Lexus: a source material that is renewable and actively absorbs carbon while it’s growing, and a finished product that can be recycled at the end of its life.
But it gets better. Whereas most environmental plastics are employed in underlying structures that are out of sight, bio-PET is different in that it can be used as a finishing material. With greater performance (heat resistance, durability and shrink resistance) and tactile qualities, bio-PET is used to line the boot area of the CT 200h, a world-first which now means that around 30 per cent of all plastics used in this model can be described as ecological.
Clearly there is a positive environmental impact in the widespread adoption of eco-plastics. But Lexus is not pioneering the development of these materials because of any government mandate. The manufacturer has set its own commitment to make all of its vehicles 95 per cent recoverable by 2015.
Lexus is currently working on new applications for environmentally-friendly plastics. Indeed, new models emerging from parent company Toyota Motor Corporation are already employing bio-PET to cover up to 80 per cent of the surface area of the interior (see image above).
The launch of the Lexus CT 200h therefore marked the beginning of a substantial new method of reducing the car’s overall carbon footprint. With a revised model waiting in the wings and many all-new models in the pipeline, Lexus will continue to prove that not all plastics are created equal.
Read more: Lexus x Tokyo Fashion at Intersect Tokyo
Read more: Meet the new Lexus CT 200h Sport
Read more: Celebrating ‘sakura’ season with the Lexus CT 200h