With consumer concern over pollution and carbon emissions, companies large and small have made every effort to clean up their act. Some of their efforts have been mostly symbolic PR efforts with little or no actual affect their carbon footprint. Some have really dug deep to find ways to develop new sustainable materials that are more environmentally friendly. Two such companies are the unlikely pair of Ford and McDonalds who announced this week that they have teamed up to use a coffee byproduct to make headlights.
Ford began looking at an alternative to the plastic and talc mixture used to make the transparent headlight housings use on their automobiles. Their research included looking at a number of food byproducts as renewable, sustainable sources for materials in their cars. “If you came to our lab, it looks somewhere between a landfill and a farm,” said Debbie Miewelski, senior technical leader of materials sustainability for Ford. A few years ago, they found that coffee chaff, which is the coffee bean skin that comes off during the roasting process, proved to be a suitable alternative to the plastic they were currently using.
Once they found the material, they needed a source. McDonalds was currently seeking partners for environmental initiatives as well. “We’ve conventionally thought of collaborations as within the food industry,” said Ian Olson, senior director of global sustainability at McDonald’s. Ford appreciated McDonald’s efforts to be a more environmentally friendly company. They had recently achieved their goal of sourcing all of their U.S. coffee in a sustainable manner as well as working with suppliers to develop more eco-friendly coffee cups. Naturally, McDonalds was happy to partner with another company with similar sustainability initiatives and the partnership took shape.
This isn’t Ford’s first foray into making their cars out of organic materials. They’ve been using soy-based foam in their seat cushions since 2011.