In October, Ford announced that the carpeting in every Escape sport utility vehicle it builds will incorporate 25 recycled 20-ounce plastic bottles. This is the first time the automaker has used this type of carpeting in an SUV. The bottle-based fibers were incorporated to help reduce wear and improve sustainability. Based on the automaker's year-to-date sales, as many as 4 million bottles could be diverted from landfills by incorporating them into the Escape's carpeting.
Ford previously has focused on increasing the use of recycled, bio-based, and nonmetal materials in its vehicles. For example, the company has included soy foam in seat cushions and head restraints, castor oil foam in instrument panels, recycled resins in underbody systems, recycled yarns in seat covers, plastic made of natural fibers in interior components, and wheat straw in different plastics.
This is pretty cool. I would think that a full-out campaign to use sustainable materials in vehicles, be it car seats, rugs, or whatever, might actually have more impact on reducing carbon footprint than auto makers' EV plans, given the relatively small audience still for those cars. I hope we see more manufacturers follow this route.
If car seats are anything like the fabrics used in clothing, I think you can still maintain a pretty good look and feel. I've seen some pretty amazing things done with recyclable materials in clothing, even household items. High end vehicles typically don't have fabrics--they are usually equipped with leather upholstery. My guess is we'll see some pretty compelling options going forward.
It's amazing what a customer mandate will do. Ford asked its suppliers to come up with post-consumer waste interior materials and its supplier got imaginative. I guess that's the old saw of necessity being the mother of invention. Various supplier mandates from Wal-Mart have also been effective.
@Ann: Good article. However, you might want to clarify that, while Unifi makes both Repreve polyester fiber and Repreve nylon filament, these are two different products. The polyester fiber contains both pre- and post-consumer waste material, while the nylon fiber contains only pre-consumer waste material.
TJ, I can assure you that fabric made from recycled plastic bottles absolutely feels like that made from new or even natural material. There's a chance that you've worn or handled fabric made from recycled plastic. This technology is so advanced that one is hard pressed to tell the difference.
It's good to see that the automotive industry is getting more into recycling, though it has been there for quite some time in one way or another. As one example, think of the auto salvage yard. These have been around for decades. Parts from old or wrecked car and trucks are reused. What isn't reused gets melted down, as in the case of steel and aluminum, and likely ends up in more cars.
As another example of this re-use aspect (and to show my age) back in 1969, when I had been laying carpet for a few years, I had my first glimpse of "rebond" carpet padding. I wondered about it's appearance, that it looked like it was made from various bits of foam, and I was told that's exactly what it was and still is. The majority of this foam (as well as vinyl fabric and other synthetics) came from and still comes from, I'm sure, the auto and furniture industry. And now, since rebond pad is made from the scraps left over in upholstering with car making the major source, we may soon see RE-recycling as the scraps of that redone plastic ends up on floors of houses and commercial buildings.
I agree Justajo about the long standing recycling aspects of the auto industry. The cars don't get melted down until all useable parts have stripped off. Then what's left gets melted down to make new cars. Steel's big argument against composite materials is the ease with which steel can recycled.
Love the new fabric! In the second paragraph, there is a statement asserting that the car, being electric, produces no CO2 emissions. I think we should count the fraction of the emissions of the power plant for the energy used to charge the car. It would be significantly less than an HC fueled car, due to efficiency and averaging across coal/nuclear/wind/solar/hydro, etc. generation. I just think that zero is a bit misleading. Not that I don't like electric cars ... It's the ONLY way I would ever drive anything ultimately powered by wind or nuclear.
Curious that the story states that Ford is mandating cars with "eco-friendly power trains" to use the sustainable materials for car seats and such. Obviously they are trying to make a statement with these cars, but it does lead you to wonder how serious they are about this. If it's limited to eco-friendly cars, not their full portfolio of vehicles, is this more of a marketing/positioning ploy or is it a true sustainability effort?
The new composites manufacturing innovation center is intended to be a source of grand challenges for industry, like the kind that got us to the moon under JFK. These aren't the words its new CEO Craig Blue used, but that's the idea and the vision behind the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).
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