I thought it was pretty cool to find out that Ford Motor Company is converting recycled plastic water bottles and other plastic waste into car seats for the 2012 Ford Focus Electric. I also thought it was cool that each of those car seats keeps 22 16-oz plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles out of the landfill. Now, I think it's even cooler that Ford and Unifi, maker of the Repreve car seat fabric, will collect and recycle bottles from both the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit for use in those car seats.
These collection efforts -- plus some more bottles the carmaker will collect at other venues this year -- will divert a total of 2 million water bottles from landfills, according to the company. All those bottles, along with other post-consumer waste, and post-industrial manufacturing waste such as nylon, will be converted into the Repreve seat fabric.
Ford and Unifi, maker of Repreve, will gather and recycle 2 million plastic bottles at CES and other shows for conversion into the Repreve seat fabric used in the 2012 Focus EV.
Interestingly, Ford's press release states that this effort, aside from producing more seat fabric raw material, is aimed at calling attention to the dismal statistics regarding how few plastic bottles actually get recycled and how many end up in landfills.
"After decades of education, the United States PET bottle recycling rate is only at 29 percent, about half the rate of Europe," said Roger Berrier, president and COO of Unifi, in a press release. "We hope this recycling initiative with Ford will help raise visibility around the importance of recycling with a goal to drive recycling rates to 100 percent, diverting millions of plastic bottles from entering the waste stream and potentially back into Repreve-branded fibers."
Ford's commitment to clean and sustainable materials is to be commended. For instance, it now mandates that its vehicles with eco-friendly powertrains, such as the Focus, contain fabrics that are 100 percent sustainable. And it has given somewhat less stringent mandates to suppliers for its other cars.
Jim, Ann noted these bottles get shipped anyway, so that might not be a big deal. There is an element of "greenwash" to this. Greenwash is PR that is done to make companies look good even if their green initiatives are not meaningful in sustainability. That is a lot of it around. Yet it may ultimately be positive simply because it underscores the virtue of sustainability and therefore, true sustainability efforts may follow.
"Greenwash" – I get it.Like the old expression to "white-wash" someone as if you were stretching the truth, or even con' ing them into believing something. That expression is so appropriate today – I'll remember it.My wife and I are constantly finding ourselves "rolling our eyes" at so many claims about this or that environmentally friendly initiative that, to our common sense, is just plain "hog-wash".
Certainly, not say that true environmental initiatives aren't of great value and absolutely needed -- but it seems like "green" is such a buzz-word today that many unscrupulous persons and organizations are throwing the term around far too casually."Green washed". – I Like it. Thanks.
My leather seats come from a killed cow, which eliminates one of the worst greenhouse gas producers on the plant. If everyone would do their part and demand a leather interior option we could go a long ways toward eliminating methane emmisions and save the precious crude oil that plastic manufacturing requires.
There are only so many recycled bottles people. Driving more plastic content in a product will just ultimately drive a higher demand for plastic. Driving more demand for crude oil.
I wonder what the economics is on the recycler side. Does Ford get the raw materials (bottle) essentially for free (or for shipping costs)? Also, now that there's demand for used plastic bottles, will their cost go up and thus make the recycled CES plastic more expensive. What's the business model for the companies which collect the bottles? (I.e., how have they heretofore made money and how does the rise of these useful apps -- seats and the bridge you wrote about -- alter the demand landscape and thus potentially the economics?
On the subject of greenwash, Rob (unrelated to this particular article): You can look on any media website of any car company on any day and see at least one greenwash story. One automaker today has a story about how one of its brands is "pioneering an auto environmental label." It also has another story about how one of its brands has created a "smartphone game to raise MPG awareness." Another automaker has a story about how one its models "earned accolades from GreenCar Journal." Sheesh.
All very good questions, Alex. Perhaps someone at Ford has the answers to them, although I doubt the company would want to be that forthcoming with the details.
Regarding cows, there wouldn't be any to take their leather from for upholstery, clothing, shoes, or any other large-scale uses if they weren't being raised in huge quantities. But their wastes (along with those of swine) are major sources of water pollution. Removing one or two does not affect total methane production that much and it has essentially zero effect on water pollution.
Much of the problem, I think, lies in the fact that in the US so many efforts are onesy-twosy point solutions by one or two companies here and there, instead of systematic, unified, industry-wide or even country-wide efforts such as the Europeans or the Japanese are so good at. They don't seem to have worried about how many plastic bottles are available for recycling or what will happen to the price of plastic by recycling it! They just make it happen through collective effort, something many Americans seem to have forgotten how to do. Many countries have decided that green goals and business goals can go hand in hand. OTOH, closed loop recycling is already in place in several industries, here as well as abroad.
As regards cows, I highly recommend the book (as opposed to the movie or wikipedia entry) "Fast Food Nation." The salient line is "There is s*** in the beef." It's enough to turn you off eating meat, in the same way "Super Size Me" turns on off McNuggets. Personally, I still eat hamburgers, so I guess I should reread the book. (I've never been a chicken fan to begin with.)
Alex, thanks for that reference. The book "Fast Food Nation" was first published in Rolling Stone as a multi-part series years back. It shook up a lot of people, rightfully so I think. I had stopped eating junk food by then, but I made sure my hamburgers, and my beef, when I do eat them, only come from organic and/or natural sources. FFN discusses practices that are used in the huge fast food industry, which may represent 99% of beef production, but fortunately, not 100%.
Yes, there's a lot if it, Jim. The one good part is that it indicates a recognition that green products and processes have become an important value in the culture. That will likely lead to improvements even if there is plenty of greenwash along the way.
The 100-percent solar-powered Solar Impulse plane flies on a piloted, cross-country flight this summer over the US as a prelude to the longer, round-the-world flight by its successor aircraft planned for 2015.
GE Aviation expects to chop off about 25 percent of the total 3D printing time of metallic production components for its LEAP Turbofan engine, using in-process inspection. That's pretty amazing, considering how slow additive manufacturing (AM) build times usually are.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.