I agree that it can feel weird to think that one's notepad or car seat is made from garbage. But I remind myself that it's really *clean* garbage, not what we might find at the dump, which is the image that, at least in my mind, causes the "ecchh" response.
And, as I mentioned in another story's comment thread, I was surprised to find out that consumer demand has actually made a big difference in the development of both bioplastics and recycled materials. In fact, that's partly why most of the bioplastics volume to date has been in less durable materials to replace things like trash bags. It depends on the app and a few other things, but consumer demand, and the desire of large OEMs to look good to consumers, have been important factors in getting as far as we've gotten.
Intellectually, I feel good about using green and sustainable materials. Emotionally, I'm not sure how great I feel about sitting on recycled garbage. It's kind of the same reaction I have to a notepad that says "50% post-consumer content." ("Post-consumer content" is a nifty euphemism for "recycled.") At the end of the day, use of sustainable materials is driven by cost savings, not perceived consumer demand. That's also what's driving the recent crop of "green" materials we're seeing, which are being ably covered by Ann.
Isn't listening to consumers supposed to be what the car makers do? So if they are listening to consumers in regards to sustainable materials, then perhaps that will also translate into paying attention to user input in other areas, too. In any case, I agree, this can really help jumpstart not only the production and use of sustainable materials, but more R&D, which is sorely needed.
Yes, it's a good program. One of the things that encouraging about the program is that Ford clearly sees this as a way of competing for goodwill among consumers. that kind of competition can have a significant impact on the production and use of sustainable materials.
I think you're exactly right, Rob. Ford is one of several carmakers either using or investigating sustainable materials, whether those are recycled plastic bottles or engineering plastics made from natural feedstocks. The way things seem to work in automotive manufacturing, a new material has to be checked out pretty thoroughly, not only in terms of cost and performance, but also in terms of how easily it can be dropped into the highly automated manufacturing process. From the background material I read, Ford sees itself as a leader in promoting the use of sustainable materials, kind of like Walmart has done in big box stores.
I agree this program could produce serveral advantages. For one, it could prove the case for using sustainable materials, which could spread the use of these materials (and thus drive down costs by expanding scale). It could also pressure other car makers to adopt sustainable programs.
Rob, your questions about cost in both posts are good ones. I don't have the answers in this specific case. But I do keep seeing assertions in many cases that recycled plastics are less expensive than the original virgin materials. Aside from cost savings and marketing objectives, the other obvious goals to be achieved from the use of sustainable; materials are green-ness, which could actually involve several advantages.
Good point, Ann. I can understand the marketing advantages of using sustainable materials. What are some of the other goals this mandate might serve? Not sure there is a cost savings here, but maybe there is.
Rob, I think you are right regarding Ford's use of various vendors for various materials. I don't know the specific structure of Ford's supply chains for different models or lines, but one particular material may not be competing with another from a different vendors It's pretty clear that Ford's use of material X in the car seat for model Y doesn't mean that X will be used in all other models' car seats.
And I don't think the mandate is for marketing purposes alone. I think it serves multiple goals.
I agree, Ann, it would make sense for Ford to adopt this mandate to other vehicles. I'd like to know the economics of it. Do these alternative materials cost more or cost less than traditional materials. The answer is probably volume. Whatever is getting use the most will probably cost the least per vehicle.
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