Ford Motor Company and H.J Heinz are looking at a possibility of using tomato fibre to develop a more sustainable bioplastic material for vehicles in a bid to reduce use of petrochemicals in manufacturing and reduce the impact of vehicles on the environment.
Researchers at Ford and Heinz are investigating the use of tomato fibres in developing sustainable, composite materials for use in vehicle manufacturing. Specifically, dried tomato skins could become the wiring brackets in a Ford vehicle or the storage bin a Ford customer uses to hold coins and other small objects.
At Heinz, researchers were looking for innovative ways to recycle and repurpose peels, stems and seeds from the more than two million tons of tomatoes the company uses annually to produce its best-selling product: Heinz Ketchup. Leaders at Heinz then turned to Ford.
The motivation behind Ford’s move is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact.
“Although we are in the very early stages of research, and many questions remain, we are excited about the possibilities this could produce for both Heinz and Ford, and the advancement of sustainable 100% plant-based plastics.” said Vidhu Nagpal associate director, packaging R&D for Heinz.
The move is part of the company’s global sustainability strategy to lessen its environmental footprint while accelerating development of fuel-efficient vehicle technology worldwide. With cellulose fibre-reinforced console components and rice hull-filled electrical cowl brackets introduced in the last year, Ford’s bio-based portfolio now includes eight materials in production.
Other examples are coconut-based composite materials, recycled cotton material for carpeting and seat fabrics, and soy foam seat cushions and head restraints.