Recyclables and cars seem like unrelated items. In fact, the only thing I can think of that you can recycle on a car is the battery and possibly the tires; but apart from that, the modern automobile is not really a beacon of sustainability. The challenge comes from finding ways in which to incorporate commonly recycled waste, such as plastic, into car designs. Detroit-based Ford Motor Company has decided to take that challenge head-on with its new 2013 model Ford Fusion hybrid which is built partly from recycled materials.

The new model features seats that are composed of recycled plastic fabric, making it the first automaker in the world to do so. Ford uses approximately 40 clear plastic bottles to cover every seat inside the Fusion, which when combined with the car’s annual production goals results in over 1.5 million yards of recycled fabric being produced every year. This fabric is produced by a company by the name of Unifi which has established a reputation for turning plastic waste into viable fabrics for a number of different industries. The company takes clear plastic bottles, these are usually discarded water bottles, and melts them down. The resulting resin is then extruded through tiny holes that shape the plastic into a fabric that resembles yarn. From there, Unifi can weave the plastic yarn, called Repreve into Ford’s car seats.

More and more companies like Ford are looking into more sustainable manufacturing processes, with everyone from GE to Amazon putting research dollars into recyclable materials they can use with their  products, or at least the packaging that they come in. This new surge in corporate sustainability efforts can certainly help reduce the amount of trash in dumpsters all over the country, and perhaps the world. But it remains to be seen whether this renewed effort to be green has the staying power it needs to make an appreciable difference.

For Ford at least, this new green effort will continue for several years to come. They already have plans in the works to expand their use of Repreve and other recyclable materials in their other cars, including some that are outside of the Ford marque. Soon enough, we might all be driving around on what was once a pile of water bottles.

Source: Chicago Tribune