Readers of TriplePundit don't need reminding that the waste stream derived from buying bottled water is an environmental hazard. Less than a third of all plastic bottles get recycled in the USA, when they could be put to effective second-life use.
Ford Motor Company announced last week that in partnership with REPREVE, they plan to make good use of some of these old plastic bottles by diverting 2 million of them from landfill, for use in the seat fabric of Ford's forthcoming Focus Electric model.
REPREVE's fabric is a polyester fiber made from a blend of recycled PET plastic, along with other recycled post-consumer material. Ford's press release details that the car will be the first with an interior made with 100 percent clean technology, far exceeding the company's goal of 25 percent clean technology across their whole vehicle line-up.
Each Focus Electric will use 22 recycled plastic bottles, which aside from going towards keeping PET material out of landfills, will also reduce energy consumption by offsetting the need to use newly refined crude-oil for production.
Since 2009, Ford has incorporated 37 different fabrics and materials which align with their mandate to use a minimum of 25 percent recycled content in their vehicles. These include soy foam seat cushions, wheat straw-filled plastics, castor oil foam in instrument panels, recycled resins for under body systems, recycled yarn on seat covers and natural-fiber plastic for other interior components. Furthermore, their vehicles are currently around 90 percent recyclable at end of life.
Ford and REPREVE's maker, Unifi, will be collecting used plastic water bottles this week from two major trade shows going on in the USA: the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) taking place in Detroit, as well as the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) being held in Las Vegas. Materials collected from each will find their way into Ford's Focus Electric - which will be built in Wayne Michigan.
It would be good to see the use of this fabric extended into their other vehicles, as from a supply-chain perspective, there are more than enough raw-materials available. As high a number as 2 million bottles diverted from landfill sounds, according to Scientific American, it nonetheless represents just 5 minutes worth of water bottles that American's are currently throwing away.
Triple Pundit's Nick Aster is in Detroit this week at the auto show, and will be following up on Ford's efforts as well as reporting on other developments from the auto-industry.
Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.