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Ford Recycles 1.2 Billion Plastic Bottles Every Year for Parts

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Ford recycles 1.2 billion plastic water bottles
Photo: Ford Motor Company

You’re a reasonable person who tries to avoid overusing single-use plastics but always recycles whenever you do. Because that’s a reasonable thing for reasonable people to do when they understand that the planet is slowly dying because of the things we do. But let’s digress. Assuming you’re that person, you may find yourself wondering just where your recycled water bottle winds up. According to Ford, there’s a pretty good chance it wound up in one of its vehicles.

Ford says that it uses 1.2 million recycled plastic bottles every year for vehicle parts, including underbody shields that protect against damage and wheel liners for its F-Series trucks. On average, that’s about 250 recycled plastic bottles for every vehicle. Ford uses plastic bottles not just because it’s better for the environment, but also because of its lighter weight. This also helps make the cabins of new vehicles like the 2020 Ford Escape and Explorer quieter and more comfortable.

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“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.”

To achieve this, Ford shreds the plastic bottles, turns the remnants over to suppliers who transform it into fiber, and then the fiber is mixed with other fibers to create a sheet. Sure beats having those bottles wind up as part of a giant floating pile of garbage in the ocean, doesn’t it? Ford also uses recycled plastics to create cloth seats and formed a partnership with Jose Cuervo to derive bioplastic from agave fiber.

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