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When you recycle plastic bottles, do you ever stop and think about where that plastic ends up? One answer is Ford vehicles.
We are playing a major role in promoting environmentally friendly auto parts. One way we’re doing that is by using recycled plastic bottles for underbody shields – an extremely large part – on cars and SUVs, as well as wheel liners on F-Series trucks.
Debbie Mielewski, the Ford senior technical lead for the sustainability and emerging materials research team, says utilizing 1.2 billion plastic bottles for underbody panels is a major accomplishment, and another way to reuse materials that would have otherwise been discarded.
“Plastics like that in water bottles are one-use, and when discarded, that material is like new,” she said. “They play a major role in improving human life, it’s just a matter of finding a way to manage its reuse.”
Here’s how it works: When plastic bottles are thrown into a recycling bin, they are collected with thousands of others, and shredded into small pieces. That’s typically sold to suppliers who turn it into a fiber, by melting the bottle and extruding it. Those fibers are mixed together with other various types of fiber in a textile process and used to make a sheet of material, which is then formed into automotive parts.
“The Ford philosophy of reduce, reuse and recycle goes all the way back to the founding of the company,” Debbie said. “Henry Ford believed that we should be responsible to reduce the environmental impact on the planet in any way possible, and was interested in recycling materials, as well as using plant-based materials.”
In addition to making an impact by recycling plastic, we are also a leader in plant-based materials – starting with soy foam, which was implemented in the 2008 Mustang – and resulting in more than 10 plant-based materials on the majority of Ford products.
We also utilize discarded carpet in underhood powertrain components – enough material to carpet downtown Detroit 42 times, according to Wellman PRET.
“Reducing our impact on the planet is something that, I believe, is in Ford Motor Company’s DNA,” Debbie said.