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Ford Looks to Blue Jeans, Plastic Bottles and Shredded Money

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author photo by Nick Chambers May 2012
  • Recycled and renewable materials replace plastics and foam
  • Can save money and help the environment at the same time

Oil prices. We all feel their sting. But while most of us associate it with the stuff we seem to constantly pour down our car's gullets, oil is also used in virtually all plastics and foams that make up such a critical part of our modern lives.

In the automotive world everything from seat cushions and glove boxes, to soundproofing and carpets requires lots of oil to make. When you put those things into hundreds of thousands of cars a year, the fact that a barrel of oil is eight times more expensive than it was a decade ago adds up quickly - not to mention the detrimental effect the use of all that extra oil has on the environment.

Seeing a win-win opportunity, Ford's materials sustainability team has been researching and incorporating many recycled, renewable and waste products into multiple car components for several years. Recycled tires already find their way into the emissions system gaskets of virtually every Ford vehicle and soy-based foam makes up many of its seat cushions. The newer cars Ford builds such as the 2013 Flex, 2013 Escape and upcoming 2013 Fusion, all incorporate even greater amounts of these types of materials.

The Ford Flex has waste straw mixed into some of its plastic bins and the new Fusion uses roughly two pairs' worth of denim from old blue jeans as sound insulation, but the transformation is especially apparent in the new Escape. Each Escape has 25 recycled plastic bottles in its carpeting, its doors are insulated with a material made from a fast-growing, drought-tolerant fiber called kenaf, and ten pounds of recycled cotton from blue jeans, T-shirts and other waste clothes make up insulation in its dash.

"Ford has a long history of developing green technologies because it's the right thing to do from an environmental perspective," said John Viera, Ford's global director of Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental matters. "Now, finding alternative sources for materials is becoming imperative as petroleum prices continue to rise and traditional, less sustainable materials become more expensive."

Soon Ford even plans on using some of the 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of old, shredded paper money that the U.S. sends to the landfill each day as another innovative material to replace oil. "The potential to reuse some of the country's paper currency once it has been taken out of circulation is a great example of the kind of research we are doing," said Viera.

Ford says that as long as it meets strict standards for safety and quality, any renewable or waste material has the potential to be used in its vehicle components. With economics and the environment both on the winning side of that equation it's a situation that could make everybody happy.

What it means to you: All those plastic parts in your car could be replaced with recycled and renewable materials; Ford is doing it as a way to save money and help the environment at the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Ford Looks to Blue Jeans, Plastic Bottles and Shredded Money - Autotrader