Al, based on what I've seen, heard and read sustainability is now one of Ford's top goals as a company overall. This is evident from the sustainability report (at the link we give in the article), on things their top officials have said, and most important, from their actions. It's been true for several years but I think they're making it more public recently.
NadineJ and ratkinsonjr, thanks for the info. I didn't know about milk-based fabrics--seems counterintuitive. But then so does a lot of this. Castor bean oil is another feedstock that's been looked into for some time. Arkema was one of the earliest to develop a commercial bioplastic using castor bean oil: its Rilsan product went on the market in 1947: http://www.arkema.com/en/products/product-finder/range-viewer/Rilsan-Arkema/
notarboca, if Henry Ford was really experimenting with soybean-based plastics back then, they must have been among the first ones. As we've written about many times, bioplastics have come a long, long way from unstable, weak plastics, and from smelly stuff goats would want to eat. DuPont, for example, has been in the forefront of making engineering bioplastics as good as, or better than, the ones they replace--check out their tech specs.
Early in the 20th century, there was a LOT of material development. Even more that we see today. Soybeans, hemp, flax and many more natural resources were made into usable materials for mass production. Even waste product from milk and dairy production can be made into fabric. It's really soft!
But, it was all slower and more expensive than the newest thing-plastics. Everything else was shelved. Luckily, many of these developments are being rediscovered.
Ford wasn't interested in being sustainable by today's definition. He was interested in sustaining his bottom line.
I don't know about the interiors story, but I also seem to recall that Henry Ford also produced a prototype car body made from a soybean-based plastic. It never saw production, but if I remember correctly, he was trying to increase the market for farm products, to help family farmers survive and prosper. This may also have been shown during WW II, as a possible way to provide substitutes for metals needed for the war effort. Here's a link:
Ann, your story on Ford's sustainability issue reminded be of an old (hopefully true) Ford story. Always looking to cut costs, Henry Ford worked with materials mainly composed of soybean byproducts for his car interiors. This seemed like a great idea until his rural customers complained the family goats were getting into the cars and eating the knobs, dials, etc., so he went back to the drawing board.
Thanks, Nadine, glad this was useful. I was surprised to find out how many different areas the company has been pursuing alternative sustainable and renewable materials in, and for how long. I'm glad they're not being so quiet about it now.
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