New Sustainable Products: Car Parts Made From Coffee And Plant-Based Shoes

Oct 5, 2020

Waste from the coffee you drank this morning at McDonald's may end up in a brand new Lincoln Continental. Reebok's new shoe offering this year is made from plants. These are just two examples of an increasing number of eco-friendly products by companies working toward a circular economy.

Ford Senior Technical Leader of Sustainable Materials Debbie Mielewski remembers the day she walked into her lab with a giant cup of coffee. "I looked at it and said there must be waste associated with this."

She was right. A call to the McDonald's sustainability team resulted in some samples of coffee chaff. Chaff is the really thin skin that comes off of the bean during the roasting process.  After two years of research, Ford determined it could be used in headlight housing. Third-party companies including Competitive Green Technologies and Varroc Lighting Systems, now process the chaff, turn it into pellets and mold it.

Turns out chaff has even better heat properties than the previous material, talc, a mineral that had to be mined. Eventually Ford will equip all vehicles with the special headlight housing. The Lincoln Continental will roll off the assembly line with them by year's end.

A Shoe Made From Plants?

Reebok is selling a plant-based sneaker. The Forever Floatride GROW sports sneaker is reducing the use of petroleum-based plastics buy using sustainably grown plants.

The upper part is made from eucalyptus tree fibers. The cushioning comes from algae that is naturally odor resistant. The mid-sole uses castor beans, and the sole is made from rubber trees.

In Europe, Coca-Cola and Budweiser owner InBev are among the first to ditch the plastic packaging that holds a six-pack together. They are turning to Graphic Packaging International for the KeelClip, cardboard that holds up to high-speed machines.

Vice President Bret Arnone says the product is cost competitive, however, those using it will have to buy new machinery. Arnone says U.S. companies are watching closely. He says KeelClip can also be used for food cans.

This story was first published Dec. 9, 2019 and has been updated.