Car News

Ford using recycled plastic bottles for vehicle parts

Ford uses up to 1.2 million recycled plastic bottles for vehicle parts, including underbody shields and wheel-liners on the F-150, but it’s not the only car maker using recycled plastics.

In news that should stagger everyone, according to the UN, the world consumes water from plastic bottles at the rate of, please sit down, 1 million bottles per…wait for it…minute. WTF?! Ford has announced it uses around 1.2 billion recycled single-use water bottles ever year, to manufacture vehicle parts. Around 250 bottles per vehicle manufactured in the US. But in models made in Europe, like the EcoSport the number is much higher than that.

This is good news, because any time a vehicle maker can use something recycled is good and Ford isn’t the only one. Jeep also uses recycled plastic bottles to manufacture underbody guards and wheel liners on a range of its vehicles, including the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler.

“The underbody shield is a large part, and for a part that big, if we use solid plastic, it would likely weigh three times as much,” said Thomas Sweder, design engineer, Ford Motor Company. “We look for the most durable and highest performing materials to work with to make our parts, and in this case, we are also creating many environmental benefits.”

Comprehensive Car Insurance

But this only relates to plastic vehicle components. Ford also uses recycled plastic bottles in the construction of the seats in the Ford Focus. It uses 22 bottles for the seat fabric in each Focus, to be precise. Other car makers take busted bumpers either during the manufacturing process or from wrecked vehicles and recycle the parts to make mud guards. Nissan uses recycled plastics in insulation, and Toyota claims that around 20 percent of the plastics in its vehicles are either recycled or derived from plant sources. And let’s not forget that BMW uses plastic reinforced carbon-fibre for the i3 and i8, although the plastic used its derived from recycled bottles.

Ford has also stated that the carpet used in the EcoSport is made up of 470 single-use water bottles and that since the EcoSport launched in 2012 it has made use of more than 650 million water bottles.

Turning plastic into car carpets first involves shredding both the bottles and their caps into tiny flakes. These are then heated to 260°C and melted down before being formed in to fibres the width of a single human hair. Those fibres are spun into a yarn by twisting multiple fibres together – and it is this material that is woven into carpets.

“Consumers have a hugely increased awareness of the harm that simply discarding plastic can do – but we have long been on a mission to increase the proportion of recycled and renewable materials that are used in every new car we make,” said Tony Weatherhead, materials engineer, Ford Motor Company. 

While the car makers are feeling warm and fuzzy about this, let’s not forget that early fact that the world drinks water from one millions plastic bottles every minute. And that there’s a giant island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean the size of Mexico, called the Pacific gyre.

Question: Do you think car makers should list the percentage of the plastics in their vehicles that are from recycled sources?


Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.