Over the past few years, Ford has increased its use of eco-friendly recycled and bio-based materials in its vehicles, such as soy foam seat cushions, castor oil foam in instrument panels, wheat straw-filled plastic parts, recycled resins for underbody systems, and recycled yarns on seat covers. Now the company is investigating coconut fibers, also known as coir, as a potential replacement for petroleum to reinforce its molded plastic car parts. The new plastic could be used for door and seat trim, plastic storage bins, and cup holders, and reduce Ford’s carbon footprint as well as make its cars more recyclable.
Coconut fibers have several advantages when used in car parts. They produce a lightweight product, which helps a vehicle conserve energy. They also create a more natural-looking textured finish for pleasant interior designs, and they can be harvested from a waste stream created by Scott’s Miracle-Gro. “Scott’s Miracle-Gro uses more than 70 million pounds of coir a year in our consumer products,” said Dave Swihart, Scott’s Miracle-Gro senior vice president of Global Supply Chain. “Teaming up with Ford to find a high-value use for our leftover coir material is very exciting for us as we continually work to make our products and operations more sustainable.”
“This is a win-win situation. We’re taking a material that is a waste stream from another industry and using it to increase the sustainability in our vehicles,” said Dr. Ellen Lee, technical expert for Plastics Research at Ford. “We continue to search for innovative renewable technologies that can both reduce our dependence on petroleum as well as improve fuel economy.” Since cars are a leading source of landfill waste as well as the primary reason for our dependence on oil, this is one step in the right direction: oil-independent, recyclable cars. We can’t wait to see what Ford comes up with next.