Last year, I had the chance to check out a number of green building materials in Ford’s vehicle pipeline. Some of these materials have yet to see the light of day–Indian grass molding compounds, anyone?–but Ford has finally brought wheat straw-reinforced plastic to market, in the 2010 Ford Flex’s third-row storage bins.
It’s a bigger deal than you’d think. The natural fiber-based plastic, which contains 20% wheat straw bio-filler, cuts down on Ford’s petroleum usage by 20,000 pounds each year, reduces CO2 emissions by 30,000 pounds each year, and represents an innovative use for the waste byproduct of wheat. Now that wheat straw plastic has proven to work in the Flex’s storage bins, Ford may bring the material to center console bins and trays, door panels, and armrest liners. That means even more of the 30 million metric tons of wheat straw waste that are tossed by the wayside in the Flex’s production hometown of Ontario will get a second life.
Ford isn’t the only car company to explore alternate uses for recycled and bio-based materials. Last year, 9% of all materials made out of high-density polyethylene (milk cartons, laundry detergent bottles, etc.) were used in U.S.-based automotive parts. Up to 10% of all plastics in GM cars are made of recycled content, and Toyota plans to make 60% of its interior vehicle parts out of plant-based materials in the next year. So if it’s successful, Ford’s bet on wheat straw means your next vehicle–whatever the brand–might contain a whole lot more wheat.
[Via CNN Money]