The Ford Motor Company is teaming up with H.J. Heinz Company to make use of the inedible byproducts generated while growing tomatoes. As the biggest ketchup manufacturer in the world, Heinz uses more than 2 million tons of tomatoes every year. But a lot of what is grown, such as peels, stems and seeds, goes to waste. The two companies are now coming together to use these byproducts to create plant-based bioplastics.
The bioplastic would be used as material to build wiring baskets used for onboard vehicle storage. If the bioplastic ends up being a viable solution, it would reduce the petrochemical manufacturing and the amount of petroleum-based plastic in the environment.
“We are exploring whether this food processing byproduct makes sense for an automotive application. Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact,” Ellen Lee, a plastics research specialist for Ford, told Clean Technica.
Ford is already leading the pack in using plant-based materials. Currently in production are cellulose fiber-reinforced console components, recycled cotton for fabric and carpeting, cushions and head restraints made from soy foam, rice hull-filled electrical cowl brackets, and composite materials with a coconut-base.
“We are delighted that the technology has been validated. 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 of packaging R&D for Heinz.