Researchers at Ford Motor Company and H.J. Heinz Company are investigating the use of tomato fibres in developing sustainable, composite materials for use in vehicle manufacturing.
The idea behind the project is that waste materials such as dried tomato skins from the manufacture of tomato ketchup, would be turned into a bio-plastic for use in Ford’s vehicles.
Ford plastics research technical specialist Ellen Lee said: “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.”
Nearly two years ago, Ford began collaborating with Heinz, The Coca-Cola Company, Nike and Procter & Gamble to accelerate development of a 100 per cent plant-based plastic to be used to make everything from fabric to packaging.
At Heinz, researchers were looking for ways to recycle and repurpose the two million tonnes of tomatoes Heinz uses to manufacture ketchup.
Heinz associate director, packaging R&D Vidhu Nagpal said: “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 per cent plant-based plastics.”
Ford has already introduced bio-based materials in its vehicles include coconut-based composite materials, recycled cotton material for carpeting and seat fabrics, and soy foam seat cushions and head restraints. In the last year, it has also introduced cellulose fibre-reinforced console components and rice hull-filled electrical cowl brackets.