CFCs were originally used in AC systems as a substitute for the ammonia and similiar systems used at earlier times. It was considered environmentally more friendly and less toxic, flammible, etc. (But then, the automobile in the early 1900s was considered the answer to the biggest public health and environmental problem of the time, horse urine by the 1000s of gallons and feces by the 100s of tons per week in each city that bred flies and contributed to disease! "Today's solution is tomorrow's pollution"!) CFCs are still used (Halon fire extinguishers, some home/business air conditioners, etc) as there are no acceptable substitutes as yet.
Early plastics (and many current ones) contain Poly chlorinated biphenyls - PCBs, (or similiar compounds) which were also used as insulating fluids in large electrical transformers. Outgassing of these 'plasticizers' from electrical wiring, vinyl seats, dash boards, etc. is the 'new car smell' so beloved by consumers
, and that wonderful sticky film that builds up on the inside of the windows.
Manufacturing a car is a trade off between emissions, safety, performnce, recycle ease, etc. Characteristics that make something easy to recycle at low cost may make the material too expensive to use in manufacturing, toxic, or may destroy the physical properties that make the material desirable (Imagine MBTex that is stiff as a board and cracks the first time you sit on it, or a wiring harness that is so biodegradable that it starts degrading before the car is 5 years old!)
Almost all the plastic in your car is made of different formulations, and will have the /_\ triangle and, PETE, PFTE, or some other 3 or 4 letter acronym for the type of plastic used. (look on a plastic container at home for examples). Germany (and many other countries) requires an increasing percentage of low cost recyclable parts in each of the cars, TVs, etc. made each year, and these symbols aid the sorting process. I believe it is Germany that has a TV recycling plant where old TVs go in one door, and out the other comes a tiny button of gold, a small lump of silver, a bigger chunk of copper, 2 small billets of iron and aluminum, a chunk of thorated glass, and a brick of plastic!
[Edited by JCE on 06-15-2001 at 02:03 PM]