In a Dec. 4 news release, Ford Motor Company announced its collaboration with McDonald’s to begin using the restaurant chain’s dried coffee bean skins, called coffee chaff, to reinforce car parts such as plastic headlight housings.
Coffee chaff naturally falls off coffee beans when they are roasted — and millions of pounds of it are discarded annually. The companies discovered that by combining the coffee chaff with plastic and other additives, they could create a sustainable and even more durable material.
The coffee compound meets quality requirements for components under the hood and exceeds the performance of other materials.
The parts made with coffee chaff will require 25 percent less energy to mold and will be about 20 percent lighter, according to Ford. The parts are also able to withstand higher temperatures than talc, the nonrenewable mineral that Ford traditionally uses.
According to CNN Business, Ford started experimenting with coffee chaff a few years ago, though it has been testing organic materials for over 10 years.
Ford started using soybean-based foam for its seats in 2007, according to the release. The company has implemented renewable resources such as tomato skins, agave fiber and bamboo into some of its other parts.
“If you came to our lab, it looks somewhere between a landfill and a farm,” said Debbie Miewelski, senior technical leader of materials sustainability for Ford, according to CNN Business.
Miewelski said Ford reached out to McDonald’s because of the fast-food giant’s scale and similar sustainability goals.
“McDonald’s commitment to innovation was impressive to us and matched our own forward-thinking vision and action for sustainability,” Mielewski said in the press release. “This has been a priority for Ford for over 20 years, and this is an example of jump starting the closed-loop economy, where different industries work together and exchange materials that otherwise would be side or waste products.”
McDonald’s has already achieved its goal of sustainably sourcing all of its U.S. coffee, according to CNN Business. McDonald’s is also working with other companies, including Starbucks, to come up with an environmentally friendly coffee cup.
“Like McDonald’s, Ford is committed to minimizing waste and we’re always looking for innovative ways to further that goal,” said Ian Olson, senior director of global sustainability at McDonald’s, in the release.
“We’ve conventionally thought of collaborations as within the food industry,” he said to CNN Business. “This is just scratching the surface of trying to understand what’s possible.”
McDonald’s does not roast its own coffee, but it will be directing the coffee chaff from its sources to Ford.
The project was also made possible through the help of Varroc Lighting Systems, which supplies headlamps, and Competitive Green Technologies, which processes the coffee chaff.
According to the University of Guelph, a Canadian university that helped develop the coffee composite, the coffee chaff parts will be used in the Lincoln Continental.
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