A car made from recycled plastic? This could be the future – ABC News

December 22, 2021 by No Comments

What comes around goes around: Your discarded plastic water bottle may soon become part of your next car.

Automakers are racing to make their vehicles more sustainable — the industry’s favorite buzzword — by turning environmentally unfriendly materials into seat cushions, floors, door panels and dashboard trims. First it was reclaimed wood. Then “vegan” leather. Now, plastic waste from the ocean, rice hulls, flaxseeds and agave are transforming the manufacturing process.

“Everyone is awakening to the problems of plastic and waste,” Deborah Mielewski, a technical fellow of sustainability at Ford, told ABC News.

Ford in particular has been championing the use of renewable materials in its vehicles. In 2008 it replaced the petroleum-based polyol foam in its Mustang sports car with seat cushions made from soy, an industry first. More recently Mielewski and her team started examining how to transform some of the 13 million metric tons of ocean plastic, which threaten marine life and pollute shorelines, into parts for future Ford vehicles. The result? Wiring harness clips in the new Ford Bronco Sport that were once nylon fishing nets.

“Two years ago there was a lot of publicity around ocean pollution and we felt an obligation to do something,” Mielewski said.

The wiring harness clip in the Ford Bronco Sport, made from recycled ocean plastic, is as durable as petroleum-based clips, Ford says.

Ford acquires the recycled plastic from its supplier DSM, which collects the nets from fishermen who are paid to return them. The nets are harvested, sorted, washed and dried before they’re cut into small pellets and injection-molded into harness clips, which weigh about 5 grams and guide wires that power side-curtain airbags in the Bronco Sport.

Mielewski said Ford is currently testing the recycled plastic’s durability for the Bronco Sport’s wire shields, floor side rails and transmission brackets.

“My hope is we can replace many parts with this material,” she said, adding that more than half of Ford customers “care deeply about the environment and want to understand what companies are trying to minimize their footprint.”

Brian Moody, executive editor of Autotrader, said automakers like Ford have been attempting to produce environmentally responsible vehicles for years. He recalled Ford’s Model U concept which premiered on Jan. 5, 2003, at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. It had a hybrid engine and its door panels were built with a natural fiber-filled composite material.

Ford Motor Company shows off the Model U concept car during a press conference at the North America International Auto Show, in Detroit, Jan. 5, 2003.

“This is not just a passing trend. Sustainability is here to stay,” Moody told ABC News. “Environmental regulations are likely to become more strict in the years to come [and it’s] another incentive for automakers to start looking for a solution right now.”

Automakers deliberately added plastics to reduce the weight and cost of vehicles and increase performance and fuel economy, according to Gregory Keoleian, director of the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan.

“About 40 different types of basic plastics and polymers are commonly used to make cars today and state-of-the-art separation technologies are very capital intensive,” he told ABC News. “The majority of plastics are derived from petroleum and natural gas feedstocks and when vehicles are retired these materials are generally disposed of in …….

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/Business/car-made-recycled-plastic-future/story?id=81634993


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