Ford is talking up its environmentalism when it comes to recycling plastic bottles. The automaker says it’s using them to make car parts in its cars and SUVs, as well as wheel liners on F-series trucks.
So how many plastic bottles are we talking? A lot. Ford says it uses about 1.2 billion recycled plastic bottles a year, that equals about 250 bottles per vehicle on average.
The practice dates back to 2006. Ford says it was the first automaker to use recycled plastics for wheel liners on the European Escort. Over the last 12 years, Ford says aerodynamics have driven the need for underbody shields, and the use of plastics in vehicle parts is used globally.
Due to its light weight, Ford says recycled plastic is ideal for the manufacture of underbody shields, engine under shield and front and rear wheel arch liners that can help improve vehicle aerodynamics, which affects fuel efficiency. These shields also help create a significantly quieter environment on the new 2020 Ford Escape
“Ford is among the leaders when it comes to using materials such as this, and we do it because it makes sense technically and economically as much as it makes sense for the environment,” Sweder said. “This material is very well suited for the parts we’re making with it, and is extremely functional.”
Here’s how it works: when plastic bottles are thrown into a recycling bin, they are collected with thousands of others, and shredded into small pieces. That’s typically sold to suppliers who turn it into a fiber, by melting the bottle and extruding it. Those fibers are mixed together with other various types of fiber in a textile process, and used to make a sheet of material – which is then used to make the automotive parts.
Environmentally, using recycled plastics on vehicle parts helps reduce the amount of plastic that can end up in dangerous situations, such as the Pacific gyre, for example – a floating mass of plastic bigger than the size of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean.
This isn’t Ford’s only recycling project. The automaker also says it recycles 20 million pounds of military-grade aluminum every month at its Dearborn Stamping, Kentucky Truck and Buffalo Stamping plant. That’s enough aluminum to build 51 commercial jetliners, or more than 37,000 new F-Series Super Duty bodies a month.
You can check out its aluminum recycling efforts in the video below.