Bean counters hit the jackpot

Riley Riley

The bean counters at Ford and McDonald’s have come up with a novel way of recycling leftovers from coffee production into cars.

They’ve worked out to use the skin from coffee beans that comes off during the roasting and turn it into a durable material to reinforce some car parts.

By heating the chaff to high temperatures in a low oxygen environment and mixing it with plastic and other additives, it can be turned into pellets that can then be formed into various shapes.

The coffee bean composite meets the quality specifications for parts like headlight housings and other interior and under bonnet bits.

Not only that but the material is 20 percent lighter and requires up to 25 percent less energy during the production process, and has significantly better heat properties.

Ford says it is the first time it has used coffee bean skins to convert into vehicle parts — we’re not surprised.

McDonald’s is expected to direct a significant portion of its coffee chaff in North America to Ford to be incorporated into vehicle parts.

Ford senior technical leader, sustainability and emerging materials research team, Debbie Mielewski, said McDonald’s commitment to innovation was impressive and matched Ford’s own forward-thinking vision and action for sustainability.

“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,” she said.

The collaboration with Ford and McDonald’s is the latest example of the innovative approaches both companies take to product and environmental stewardship.

Ford is progressing toward a goal of using recycled and renewable plastics in vehicles globally, with an increasing range of sustainable materials.

McDonald’s is on its way to sourcing 100 percent of its guest packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025.

The project also involves Varroc Lighting Systems, which supplies the headlamps, and Competitive Green Technologies, the processor of the coffee chaff.

McDonald’s and Ford plan to continue exploring ways to collaboratively use waste as a resource, while furthering their sustainability goals.

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