Ford Motor Company promotes the production of environment-friendly automotive parts and uses recycled plastic bottles to manufacture underbody shields for vehicles.
“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,” Ford design engineer Thomas Sweder said in a statement issued on Thursday.
“We look for the best materials to work with to make our parts and, in this case, we are also creating many environmental benefits.”
Ford’s use of recycled plastics dates back to the 1990s. In the past decade, aerodynamics have driven the need for underbody shields and the use of plastics in vehicle parts is common globally, and has grown exponentially.
Ford uses about 1.2-billion recycled plastic bottles a year, with about 300 bottles used for each vehicle.
Plastic bottles are collected from recycling bins and shredded into small pieces. This is usually sold to suppliers who turn it into a fibre, by melting the bottle and extruding it. Those fibres are mixed together with other types of fibre in a textile process and used to make a sheet of material that is then used to make the automotive parts.
Owing to its light weight, recycled plastic is ideal for the manufacture of underbody shields, engine under shield, and front and rear wheel arch liners, which help to improve vehicle aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.
Environmentally, using recycled plastics on vehicle parts helps reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills, environmentally sensitive areas or the ocean.
“Ford is among the leaders when it comes to using materials such as this, and we do it because it makes sense technically and economically as much as it makes sense for the environment,” Sweder said.
“This material is very well suited for the parts we’re making, and is extremely functional.”
In South Africa, Ford has implemented comprehensive recycling programmes at its local plants together with its suppliers, which have resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
Ford supplier, First National Battery, uses recycled lead salvaged from scrapped batteries, on three components of the battery. This includes the grid, strap and the internal post.
Further, at the Struandale engine plant in Port Elizabeth, more than 97% of waste is recycled, with the most successful projects being the recycling of hazardous waste solids, cast iron swarf from component machining, as well as used oils, plastic and cardboard packaging.