From recycling used plastic bottles into carpets for the Escape, Ford Motor Company, in collaboration with H.J. Heinz, is now looking at using tomato fibers in "developing sustainable, composite materials for use in vehicle manufacturing."
"We are exploring whether this food processing byproduct makes sense for an automotive application," said Ford plastics research technical specialist Ellen Lee. "Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact."
According to the American carmaker, it is now studying the use of dried tomato skins as raw material for its wiring brackets, or for the storage bin to hold coins and other small objects.
"We are delighted that the technology has been validated," said Heinz associate director for packaging research and development Vidhu Nagpal. "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% plant-based plastics."
In recent years, Ford has increased its use of recycled non-metal and bio-based materials. Last year, Ford began using cellulose fiber-reinforced console components and rice hull-filled electrical cowl brackets for its vehicles. Currently, Ford is now using eight bio-based materials in production. Other examples are coconut-based composite materials, recycled cotton material for carpeting and seat fabrics, and soy foam seat cushions and head restraints.