Ford and Heinz: Collaborating for a Cause

In recent years, both the Ford Motor Vehicle Company and H.J Heinz Company have explored the use of tomato fibres in developing sustainable bio plastic material for vehicles. Ford’s team of researchers have been conducting cutting edge studies in the material’s durability for potential use in vehicle wiring brackets and storage bins. The success in developing this, and other new and more sustainable composites would reduce the use of petrochemicals in the manufacturing of vehicles and reduce their impact on the environment.

At first glance you would be forgiven for not seeing the connection between tomatoes and auto vehicles, as they appear to have nothing in common. However, the recent research by Ford and Heinz have shed light to a possible connection between the two. One of the main points of interest has been the use of dried tomato skins being used as wiring brackets in Ford vehicles or being used as storage bins that the driver could use to hold coins and other small objects.

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

Two years, Ford undertook a quest to lower their overall environmental impact. This led to high profile collaborations with Heinz and other corporations, such as Coca Cola, Nike and Procter & Game. Together Ford and these companies underwent a mission to accelerate development of a 100 percent plant based plastic that could be used to make everything from fabric to packaging and replacing the petroleum based packaging that was currently in use.

At the same time, Heinz researches were looking for innovative ways to recycle and repurpose the extra peels, stems and seeds that were a byproduct of more than two million tonnes of tomatoes the company uses annually to produce its best selling product: Heinz Ketchup. Leaders at Heinz mutually turned to Ford, and a relationship was forged.

“We are delighted that the technology has been validated” said Vidhu Nagpal, associate director, packaging R&D for Heinz. “Although we are in the very early stage 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.”

Ford’s great commitment to the reduction of their environmental footprint through the reuse and recycling of organic products is part and parcel of the company’s vibrant and energetic global sustainability strategy, while accelerating the development of fuel efficient vehicle technology worldwide. Recently, Ford has increased the use of recycled non metal and bio based materials within the manufacturing of our cars. Cellulose giber reinforced console components and rice hull filled electrical cowl brackets were introduced last year and Ford’s bio based portfolio now includes eight materials in production. Furthermore, other bio based materials such as recycled cotton material for carpeting and seat fabrics, soy foam seat cushions and head restraints and coconut based composite materials are being introduced in the manufacturing of vehicles.

Ford and Heinz: Collaborating for a Cause

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