The South African automotive industry has stepped up to the plate to ensure that car parts are reusable and recyclable. More than 80% of a vehicle is able to be recycled nowadays; from used oil and old tyres to metal and battery components, the proportion of modern vehicles that can be reused is steadily increasing.

This is according to Jakkie Olivier, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI). South African automotive manufacturers are investing heavily in research and development to make cars more sustainable. These brands and other automotive components manufacturers are working alongside the RMI to push sustainability.

“Working car parts – either during its life or when the entire car is disposed of – are first salvaged,” explains Olivier. Parts such as batteries, tyres and wing mirrors that are still functional are sold as spare parts. Unusable parts are either recycled or disposed of by licensed waste management providers to minimise any environmental impacts.

Formex is also invested in minimising its environmental impact. The company holds an ISO 14001 environmental certification – an internationally recognised certification that is awarded to companies that set up, maintain and improve on their environmental policies. Formex reduces the impact of its production processes on the environment by reducing waste and implementing sustainable business practices.

Hazardous motor waste needs to be handled properly

Used motor oil can be collected and refined into new oil-based products for use in other industries, such as fuels for furnaces. Used oil is a hazardous substance and, therefore, needs to be handled by licensed waste management providers that adhere to the strict environmental laws in place.

“Other hazardous materials such as battery acid are required to be contained and disposed of in a manner which prevents environmental damage at a hazardous waste containment facility,” says Olivier. Used car parts are only sent to landfill as a last resort if they cannot be recycled or repurposed. Car manufacturers are also pushing to use more recycled plastics in their new vehicle interiors.

South African service stations and panel beaters are subjected to strict criteria, set out by European original equipment manufacturer (OEM) approval programmes, to ensure hazardous waste materials are disposed of properly. Most of these service stations are affiliated with the South African Motor Body Repairers Association (SAMBRA).

“SAMBRA members make up the majority of these [service stations and panel beaters]. In addition, SAMBRA sets a high local compliance level for all members not approved through the OEM process,” says national director of SAMBRA, Richard Green.

Automotive industry making headway with environmental sustainability

Olivier believes that the local automotive industry is making great progress towards a green future. Not only are vehicle manufacturers making rapid developments in electric and hybrid technologies, but they are also investing in sustainable practices and materials.

Vehicles are becoming far more efficient and safer. New materials allow car designs to be drastically improved to improve aerodynamics, reduce emissions and make them more impact-resistant. Aluminium and carbon fibre are some of the newer materials that car manufacturers prefer to use.

“Green is not a buzzword anymore, but a standard to which the automotive industry must strictly adhere. Sustainability has now become an integral part of the standards that define the automotive industry,” concludes Olivier. 


Formex Industries is a metal forming and assembly company that supplies a variety of complex products to the local automotive industry and export market. The company is based in the Nelson Mandela Bay metropole, South Africa’s foremost region for automotive manufacturing and export.

Formex specialises in producing components for the catalytic converter industry, as well as metal components and assemblies for the various vehicles. Formex aims to become one of the foremost suppliers for the South African automotive industry by 2035, aligning itself with the South African Automotive Masterplan (SAAM) which takes effect in 2020.

Formex is a Level 2 B-BBEE supplier with over 80% black ownership, of which more than 40% are black women. The company is owned by Deneb Investments Limited – a subsidiary of Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited (HCI) – one of South Africa’s biggest true B-BBEE companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

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