Crazy for Coconuts: Ford and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Research Using Coconut Fibers in Vehicles
- Ford and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company are researching the use of coconut fiber reinforcement for molded plastic parts to reduce the use of petroleum and make the parts lighter and more natural-looking
- The coconut coir, or husks, are a waste stream from Scotts’ soil and grass seed products. The team is investigating their use as a renewable feedstock for Ford’s vehicles
- Over the past several years, Ford has concentrated on increasing the use of nonmetal recycled and bio-based materials to reduce its carbon footprint. Materials already in use include soy foam seat cushions and head restraints, wheat straw-filled plastic bins and castor oil foam in instrument panels
NEW YORK, Oct. 6, 2011 – Coconuts are ingredients in plenty of items – pies, cakes and tropical drinks. Now, Ford is hoping to add cars to that list by working with The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company to research how coconut coir, or husks, might be used as a plastic reinforcement.
“This is a win-win situation. We’re taking a material that is a waste stream from another industry and using it to increase the sustainability in our vehicles,” said Dr. Ellen Lee, technical expert for Plastics Research at Ford. “We continue to search for innovative renewable technologies that can both reduce our dependence on petroleum as well as improve fuel economy.”
Coconut coir is a natural fiber from the husk of a coconut. ScottsMiracle-Gro uses the material as a carrier for its soils and grass seed products, including Scotts® Turf Builder® EZ Seed® and Miracle-Gro® Expand ‘n Gro™ Concentrated Planting Mix. Both products use the coir’s natural fibers to hold 50 percent more water than basic potting soil and release it as plants need it – helping homeowners save water.
“ScottsMiracle-Gro uses more than 70 million pounds of coir a year in our consumer products,” said Dave Swihart, ScottsMiracle-Gro senior vice president of Global Supply Chain. “Teaming up with Ford to find a high-value use for our leftover coir material is very exciting for us as we continually work to make our products and operations more sustainable.”
Once the coconut coir comes to Ford, researchers combine it with plastic to deliver additional reinforcement to the part while eliminating the need for some petroleum. Along with making use of a renewable resource, the new part would be lighter in weight. The natural long fibers also are visible in the plastic and offer a more natural look than typical materials.
In the interior, the material could be used in storage bins, door trim, seat trim or center console substrates. It could also potentially be used on underbody and exterior trim.
Ford is currently testing the material’s properties to ensure it passes all of the company’s durability tests. Coconut coir is very difficult to burn, and Ford is researching whether it has natural flame-retardant properties.
Ford’s “Reduce, reuse and recycle” commitment is part of the company’s broader global sustainability strategy to reduce its environmental footprint while at the same time accelerating the development of advanced, fuel-efficient vehicle technologies around the world.
Over the past several years Ford has concentrated on increasing the use of nonmetal recycled and bio-based materials whenever possible, provided these materials are environmentally favorable in the specific application. Examples include soy foam seat cushions and head restraints, wheat straw-filled plastic, castor oil foam in instrument panels, recycled resins for underbody systems, recycled yarns on seat covers and natural-fiber plastic for interior components.
To learn more about The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company and its sustainability efforts: http://www.thescottsmiraclegrocompany.com/corporateresponsibility/sustainability/index.html
# # #
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 166,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.
About Scotts Miracle-Gro
U.S., the Company’s Scotts®, Miracle-Gro® and Ortho® brands are market-leading in their categories, as is the consumer Roundup® brand, which is marketed in North America and most of Europe exclusively by Scotts and owned by Monsanto. In Europe, the Company’s brands include Weedol®, Pathclear®, Evergreen®, Miracle-Gro®, KB®, Fertiligene® and Substral®. For additional information, visit us at www.scotts.com.