Ford to Explore Possibility of Plant Based Plastics

An alliance between Ford and Heinz seems odd and unlikely; a connection between tomatoes and cars seems impossible. However researchers at both companies are exploring the possibility of a union between the two companies that might result in new, innovative ways to use food byproducts to make even more ecologically friendly new cars. In fact, it could be that tomato skins may be used to form wiring brackets or storage bins in the next generation of Ford vehicles.

Ellen Lee, a plastics research technical specialist for Ford, says, “We are exploring whether this food processing byproduct makes sense for an automotive application. Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact.”

Roughly two years ago the car maker began working with Nike, Coca-Cola, Heinz and Procter & Gamble to speed development of a completely plant-based plastic that is safer and has less environmental impact than petroleum-based plastic products that are now used for everything from fabric to packaging.

Heinz has been searching for ways to reuse peels, stems and seeds from the two million tons of tomatoes that the company uses every year to make ketchup. Heinz looked to Ford to partner with on the venture. Associate director of packaging R&D for Heinz Vidhu Nagpal, said, “We are delighted that the technology has been validated. Although we are in the very early stages of research, and many questions remain, we are excited about the possibilities this could produce for both Heinz and Ford, and the advancement of sustainable 100 percent plant-based plastics.”

Ford has made an ongoing commitment to use more ecologically sustainable manufacturing methods to lessen the company’s environmental footprint, at the same time hastening the global development of increasingly fuel efficient vehicle technology. Ford has made great strides in the area of recycled non-metal and plant-based materials. Currently in use are eight types of materials including cellulose-enforced console components, rice hull-filled electrical cowl brackets, coconut-based composites, recycled cotton material for carpeting and seat fabrics and soy foam seat cushions and head restraints.

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