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Would you like ketchup with that Ford?

Ford already uses several bio-materials in its vehicles
Ford already uses several bio-materials in its vehicles
Mary Conway photo

Ford Motor and Heinz have announced a new partnership to see if tomato byproducts could be used to make car parts. Ford is a leader in sustainability research. This latest venture will determine if tomato peels, seeds and stems can be used to make a more sustainable bio-plastic.

In a joint news release, the companies say they started work on this project two years ago. Heinz processes more than two million tons of tomatoes every year to make its best selling product: Heinz Ketchup. While Heinz is looking for a way to recycle its dried tomato peels and other byproducts, Ford is always looking for ways to reduce its reliance on petroleum based parts.

In a statement on June 10, Ellen Lee, a plastics research specialist for Ford says "Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact". At first, the new bio-plastic will more than likely be used to make wiring brackets for vehicles or the material could be used for the storage bin to hold coins or other small items.

Vidhu Nagpal, an expert in packaging for Heinz, says in the same statement "We are excited about the possibilities this could produce for both Heinz and Ford, and the advancement of sustainable 100 percent plant-based plastics".

According to Ford's release, the company is also working with Heinz, Coca-Cola, Nike and Procter and Gamble to accelerate production of a 100 percent plant-based plastic. Ford plans to use the bio-plastic to make fabric for vehicle interiors as well as packaging.

Ford's commitment to sustainability is legendary. Ford has been using soybeans in vehicle production since the 1930s. The company currently uses eight bio-based materials in production. The automaker uses rice hulls to fill cowl brackets. It uses recycled cotton, including denim jeans, for carpeting and seat fabrics. Soy foam fills seat cushions and head restraints. Coconut is used in some composites.

The commitment doesn't stop with car parts. Ford has significantly reduced its landfill waste from its facilities. Its factories use state of the art solar energy panels. One plant, Dearborn Truck, has had a living roof for more than a decade.

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