Heinz and Ford to turn ketchup into car parts

Researchers at Ford and Heinz plan to use tomato fibres to develop sustainable bio-plastic material for use in vehicle manufacturing. This could reduce the use of petrochemicals in manufacturing and lessen the impact of vehicles on the environment.

You say tom-ay-to. I say tom-ah-to. But Ford and Heinz are singing tom-auto.

While it seems like a bizarre union, the two major American manufacturers are investigating if dried tomato skins are durable enough for potential in use vehicle wiring brackets and the storage bins used to hold coins and other small objects.

“We are exploring whether this food processing by-product makes sense for an automotive application,” said Ellen Lee, plastics research technical specialist for Ford. “Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact.”

As part of its strategy to lessen its environmental footprint, Ford turned to Heinz, The Coca-Cola Company, Nike Inc. and Procter & Gamble two years ago to develop a 100 per cent plant-based plastic that could be used to make everything from fabric to packaging.

As it turned out, Heinz was looking for innovative ways to recycle and repurpose peels, stems and seeds from the more than two million tons of tomatoes the company uses annually to produce its best-selling Heinz Ketchup.

Should this new, more sustainable composite material succeed, it could reduce the use of petrochemicals in vehicle manufacturing. Along with ever increasing fuel-efficient vehicle technology, this could lessen the impact of vehicles on the environment

Ford has increased its use of recycled nonmetal and bio-based materials in recent years. Its bio-based portfolio now includes eight materials in production including recycled cotton material for carpeting and seat fabrics, and soy foam seat cushions and head restraints.


Photo credit: liz west/Creative Commons

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