Ford Motor is using recycled plastic as a way to light-weight its vehicles and help the environment at the same time. Every vehicle in the Ford line up uses some sort of component made out of recycled plastic. The 2019 Ford F-Series uses the recycled plastic in its wheel liners.
Over a Billion Bottles Recycled for Ford Every Year
Ford estimates that it uses a whopping 1.2 billion recycled plastic bottles in its parts production every year. The plastic from up to 250 recycled bottles makes its way into each and every Ford vehicle. That means the auto giant is keeping 1.2 billion bottles out of landfills every year. Ford says it is trying to use more and more recycled plastic in its production every year.
In the F-Series, Ford is using the reprocessed plastic to make the wheel liners. That is the heavy shield behind your tire, in the wheel well.
Using Recycled Plastic to Lightweight Parts
Ford is also using the plastic as underbody shields for all cars, and SUVs. The recycled bottles can also be used to produce parts used for sound-proofing and improving aerodynamics.
“The underbody shield is a large part, and for a part that big, if we use solid plastic, it would likely weigh three times as much,” said Thomas Sweder, design engineer, Ford Motor Company. “We look for the most durable and highest performing materials to work with to make our parts, and in this case, we are also creating many environmental benefits.”
According to Ford, “When plastic bottles are thrown into a recycling bin, they are collected with thousands of others, and shredded into small pieces. That’s typically sold to suppliers who turn it into a fiber, by melting the bottle and extruding it. Those fibers are mixed together with other various types of fiber in a textile process and used to make a sheet of material – which is formed into the automotive parts.”
Using recycled plastic helps Ford make underbody shields, the shields that go under the engine and front and rear wheel arch liners that help improve vehicle aerodynamics.
Helping the Environment and Ford
Environmentally, using recycled plastics on vehicle parts helps reduce the amount of plastic that can end up in the ocean or in landfills. You may have noticed that many restaurants are now using paper straws, instead of plastic, trying to keep the straws out of landfills or away from wildlife that can be harmed by them.
“Ford is among the leaders when it comes to using recycled materials such as this, and we do it because it makes sense technically and economically as much as it makes sense for the environment,” Sweder said. “This material meets all of our robust specifications for durability and performance.”
Manufacturing Built on Sustainability
Ford takes great pride in being environmentally friendly. The huge Rouge manufacturing complex in Dearborn, Michigan, is a testament to the company’s dedication to pursuing sustainability and pioneering environmentally friendly manufacturing. Some of the different buildings use recycled water in the heating, cooling and manufacturing systems. At least one of the plants has a grass roof to help it maintain the building temperature. Special swales around the property capture rain water to also use in production.
Henry Ford experimented with making plastic out of soybeans decades ago. Ford now uses soybean oil, a very sustainable resource, in all of its vehicles. Soy oil is used to make some of the foam that is used in seat cushions. Recycled cotton is reportedly used in some vehicles for carpet and seat fabrics. Ford engineers are also experimenting with other ways to produce plastic from plants.
Much of the company's work on sustainability is highlighted on the Ford Rouge Factory tour and at the Henry Ford Museum.
So next time you are hopping into your F-150, take a look at the wheel liners. Think of the 250 water bottles that you are keeping out of the landfill. We should all be like Ford and try to recycle. Every little bit helps.
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