Ever heard of leftover dried tomato skins being turned into a sustainable bio-plastic material for automobiles?
Researchers at Ford Motor Co. and H.J. Heinz Co. are investigating the use of tomato fibers in developing sustainable composite materials for use in vehicle manufacturing.
57 Varieties Meet Car Maker
Ketchup producer H. J. Heinz Co. and Ford Motor Co. have researchers working together to investigate and explore the use of tomato fibers in producing plant-based alternatives to plastic for use in vehicle manufacturing. Known for its “57 varieties”, the tinned-food giant, Heinz is looking at the possibility of using its bio-waste to create a ‘green’ replato cement for petroleum-based plastic which cars such as the Galaxy, Focus, F-150 pick-up truck, Fiesta, and Mondeo are using.
Tomato Fiber For Use In Ford Vehicles
The durability of tomato fiber which comes largely from waste peeled tomato skins, seeds, and stems is being tested by scientists at Ford manufacturing plants for potential use in making:
- storage bins (to hold coins)
- wiring brackets
- other small objects in the car
Reducing Use Of Petrochemicals
The scientists see the potential of reducing the use of petrochemicals needed to manufacture plastic and that would mean reducing its harmful impact on the environment. According to Ellen Lee, the plastic research specialist at Ford, exploring this by-product from food processing makes sense for an automotive application.
Benefits For Ford
The two companies are bound to benefit from this exploratory investigation. Ford will have a material that is lightweight, yet strong, that meets the requirements of the vehicle, and one that can reduce their harmful impact on the environment.
Benefits For Heinz
On the other hand, Vidhu Nagpal, the research and development associate director of Heinz, explains that the company has been looking for innovative ways not to waste the stems, seeds, and peels from the more than two million tons of tomatoes they use every year to produce their best-selling Heinz ketchup. The sheer volume of tomato waste which passes through the industrial microwave drying process gives the researchers at Heinz a good reason to seriously explore ways to be able to repurpose the peels, seeds, and stems. The partnership with Ford validated the technology.
Heinz Promoting Global Green
Even at the very early stage of the research, both companies are excited about the beneficial end result the research can bring for both Heinz and Ford, especially on the advancement of 100% plant-based composite material replacing environment-hazard plastics. Ford has been promoting a “global green” strategy to minimize its environmental footprint by committing to the “reduce, reuse and recycle” program, while accelerating the development of fuel-efficient vehicle technology globally.
Bio-Based Materials In Ford Cars
On the other hand, Ford explains that some two years back, they had collaborated with other companies including Nike, Procter & Gamble, and Coca Cola and came up with console components made from cellulose fiber and electrical component (cowl brackets) made from rice hulls, making the bio-based portfolio of Ford to include 8 materials currently in production. Other examples are:
- composite materials from coconut
- recycled cotton material for seat fabrics and carpeting
- soy foam head restraints and seat cushions
With these efforts, Ford has increased using bio-based and recycled non-metal materials in their production processes.
Did you notice the bio-based materials in your Ford F-150 truck?