Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) is forming a partnership with McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) to turn waste from coffee production into a new type of plastic. Ford is planning to use the new composite for interior car components and under the hood. Ford senior materials research scientist Debbie Mielewski says the new car parts will be lighter and stronger than the ones they replace.
The new material was developed in partnership with Competitive Green Technologies. It is made from the chaff, or dried coffee bean skins, which is typically discarded as waste during the roasting process. If not thrown away, it usually gets turned into garden mulch or charcoal. McDonald’s plans to divert a “significant portion” of its North American coffee chaff to Ford. Though the actual amount of coffee McDonald’s purchases is not readily available, Mielewski says there are millions of pounds of the chaff available annually.
The plastic is created by blending the chaff with polypropylene and replaces talc in the plastic. As a result, the car parts will be 20 percent lighter and be considerably stronger than conventional materials. The material can also better withstand high temperatures and can maintain its integrity up to 150 degrees Celsius, about 40 degrees higher than the talc-based polymer. The coffee odor is removed during processing so the car won’t smell like you just brewed a cup.
The first production application for the material will be headlight housings for the Lincoln Continental sedan built by supplier Varroc Lighting Systems. Each headlight housing uses chaffs from about 300,000 beans. The plastic will soon be expanded to additional vehicles and parts, including battery trays, engine covers and other components for under the hood. Both companies also plan to continue exploring new ways to work together on sustainability efforts.