Ford and Heinz work together to develop waste tomato-based plastics

Car giant Ford Motor Company and food giant H.J. Heinz Company have announced that they are working together to explore the use of tomato fibres in developing bioplastic materials that can be used in vehicle manufacturing.

The idea behind the project is that waste materials such as dried tomato skins from the manufacture of tomato ketchup, would be turned into a bioplastic for use in Ford’s vehicles.

Researchers at both companies believe that they can use the tomato fibres to make composite materials to be used for wiring brackets in a Ford vehicle or the storage bins used in Ford cars.

Ford plastics research technical specialist Ellen Lee said: “We are exploring whether this food processing byproduct makes sense for an automotive application.

“Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact.”

Nearly two years ago, Ford began collaborating with Heinz, The Coca-Cola Company, Nike and Procter & Gamble to accelerate development of a 100% plant-based plastic to be used to make everything from fabric to packaging.

At Heinz, researchers were looking for ways to recycle and repurpose the two million tonnes of tomatoes Heinz uses to manufacture ketchup.

Heinz packaging R&D associate director Vidhu Nagpal said: “We are delighted that the technology has been validated. Although we are in the very early stages of research and many questions remain, we are excited about the possibilities this could produce for both Heinz and Ford, and the advancement of sustainable 100% based plastics.”

Ford has already introduced bio-based materials in its vehicles include coconut-based composite materials, recycled cotton material for carpeting and seat fabrics, and soy foam seat cushions and head restraints. In the last year, it has also introduced cellulose fibre-reinforced console components and rice hull-filled electrical cowl brackets.

The news from Ford and Heinz follows on from a recent announcement made by plastic manufacturer Biome Bioplastics about a new material development.

Biome Bioplastics has released ground-breaking research that demonstrates the feasibility of creating low-cost, high-performance bioplastics using lignin derived from wood.

The research, undertaken in conjunction with the University of Warwick’s Centre for Biotechnology and Biorefining, reveals that lignin – a waste product of the pulp and paper industry – is a potentially abundant feedstock for the chemicals that could provide the next generation of bioplastics.

Liz Gyekye

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie