Andy Hobbs and his global environmental quality team have reduced waste to landfill by 44 percent in the past five years alone. That’s both impressive and incredible. But as Director, Ford Environmental Quality Office, Andy’s all about the S-word: sustainability.
“Integration of our sustainability initiatives into the Ford Production System has enabled us to accelerate environmental improvements at our manufacturing facilities,” Andy explained. That’s been a goal for Ford: building vehicles that are fuel efficient and thoughtfully designed in order to help reduce environmental impact.
From coconut fiber for plastic parts to recycled carpet and denim for sound insulation, Ford has been coming up with some head-scratching but totally functional renewable materials so that it can utilize recycled content whenever possible. Discarded tires too, which are contributing to environmentally friendly seals and gaskets.
And now electricity is being generated in a unique way as well. Engineering Supervisor Terry Filipiak and his team at AutoAlliance International in Flat Rock, Michigan, came up with a plan that not only helped eliminate waste to landfill, it helped convert that waste to enough electricity to power 20 homes for a year. “The leftover residue from the hundreds of cars we paint every day creates paint sludge,” explained Andy. It’s nontoxic, and the sludge has a BTU value, so tests were done with Ford partners at DTE Energy, where it was discovered that it’s an excellent fuel to help generate electricity. Ford is also looking into using this process with plants, and why not further explore the plant avenue? The Blue Oval is already researching the milky substance in dandelions as a way to increase the strength of plastics, such as for floor mats, and the all-new Escape utilizes kenaf for weight savings.
Plastic bottles, soybeans, yarn, plants, tires, wheat straw, blue jeans, car battery casings—let’s just say your Ford is becoming quite the conversation piece! But then protecting the environment is exactly what Ford wants you to be talking about!