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Ford and McDonald’s Turn Coffee Into Car Parts

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Ford and McDonald's Turn Coffee Into Car Parts
Ford’s Debbie Mielewski takes a ride with McDonald’s director of sustainability Ian Olson
Photo: Ford

If you end up driving a new Ford in the near future, you might want to give the cabin materials and headlights a closer look; they’re likely to be the reincarnation of McDonald’s cast-off coffee chaff. Ford Motor Company and McDonald’s USA have announced that they’re collaborating to recycle coffee bean skins into auto parts.

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A new alliance

Ian Olson, senior director of global sustainability at McDonald’s, has high aspirations for the project. He hopes other companies will follow suit by adopting more eco-friendly production methods.

“McDonald’s commitment to innovation was impressive to us and matched our own forward-thinking vision and action for sustainability,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford’s senior technical leader of the sustainability and emerging materials research team.

Ford and McDonald's Turn Coffee Into Car Parts
Ford and McDonald’s will soon be giving vehicles a caffeine boost
Photo: Ford

Coffee chaff to car parts

For Ford, the first step in converting coffee bean skins to auto parts is to heat the chaff to high temperatures under low oxygen. It’s then mixed with plastic and other additives before it’s shaped into pellets. Automakers can use these pellets to manufacture certain parts, such as under-hood and interior components as well as headlamp housings.

Parts made from this chaff-composite material use 25 percent less energy during the molding process. They’re also about 20 percent lighter than conventional car parts. McDonald’s and Ford are also roping in two additional partners in this project. Competitive Green Technologies is helping process the coffee chaff while Varroc Lighting Systems will produce the headlamps.

Ford’s alliance with McDonald’s is just one of the ways the brand is introducing progressive services, products, and production methods to improve the auto industry while benefiting the environment. The automaker even came in early on its CO2 emission goal according to the 19th annual Sustainability Report it received in June of last year.

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Get a glimpse of this innovative process: