McDonald’s and Ford turn your coffee into car parts

Posted on 11 June 2020.

When an automotive giant meets a fast-food leader original ideas for the circular economy emerge. What if some of the coffee waste produced by McDonalds were used to make headlamp housings for Ford?

By opting for recycled coffee waste, Ford not only makes its parts about 20% lighter but also uses 25% less energy during the molding process

Fancy a coffee for the road? Ford and McDonald's did! The two American giants have embarked on an ambitious partnership to exploit some of the coffee waste produced by the fast food chain.

The prize is huge. In the US McDonald's produces more than 28,000 metric tons of coffee waste every year. This waste is the thin skin that wraps around the coffee beans and falls off naturally during roasting. And usually ends up in landfills or incinerators.

Hence Ford's idea: why not use this material to make car parts? So the two companies worked together on a process that could reuse coffee waste. The skins of the coffee beans are heated to very high temperatures and then mixed with plastics. The resulting material is easily molded and can be used in a range of car parts. Ford is using it in headlamp housings - the previous design used the mineral resource talc.

By opting for recycled coffee waste, Ford not only makes its parts about 20% lighter but also uses 25% less energy during the molding process.

 

A virtuous partnership

By collaborating around a circular model, the two companies highlight the need to develop new ways of looking at the economy.« It's time to move towards an economy made up of small circular models in which industries work hand in hand. Everyone exchanges and recycles each other's waste,», Debbie Mielewski, a member of Ford's research teams, told the magazine GreenBiz

The two giants’ initiative is not unique. Each is working on several projects that will make their businesses more virtuous. While Ford already produces more than 300 car parts from reusable materials (soy, rice, tomato, tree resin, etc.), McDonald's is working on the launch eco-friendly cups. The two groups are already exploring other partnerships to reuse orange peel and even potato skins!