Ford is trying to do its part to combat climate change by recycling old coffee waste from McDonald’s into car parts. The automaker will be taking food waste from the fast food giant, diverting it from a landfill to its laboratory, where it will be engineered into bioplastics, Ford said. In addition to reducing food waste, the effort will make car parts lighter, use less petroleum, and lower CO2 emissions.
The auto industry is under enormous pressure to reduce tailpipe emissions and increase production of electric vehicles. Over a quarter of all carbon emissions are from the transportation sector. Ford is one of four global automakers that have bucked the Trump administration by reaching a deal with California to increase the fuel economy of — and reduce emissions from — their new vehicle fleets through 2026. Turning the dried skin of the coffee bean, that falls of during roasting, into auto parts is a relatively minor effort compared to that, but Ford hopes that it will bolster its environmental bona fides all the same.
Here’s how Ford describes the process:
Every year, millions of pounds of coffee chaff – the dried skin of the bean that naturally comes off during the roasting process – are turned into garden mulch or charcoal in North America. Together, Ford and McDonald’s can provide an innovative new home to a significant portion of that material. The companies found that chaff can be converted into a durable material to reinforce certain vehicle parts. By heating the chaff to high temperatures under low oxygen, mixing it with plastic and other additives and turning it into pellets, the material can be formed into various shapes.
The chaff composite meets the quality specifications for parts like headlamp housings and other interior and under hood components. The resulting components will be about 20 percent lighter and require up to 25 percent less energy during the molding process. Heat properties of the chaff component are significantly better than the currently used material, according to Ford.
Ford has set a goal for itself to only use recycled and renewable plastics in its global vehicle fleet.
Correction: This story original called the coffee waste “grounds” but it’s chaff, the skin that falls off during the roasting process. We regret this error.