Using recycled content in materials diverts consumer and industrial waste from landfill, reduces the depletion of natural resources, and can lower both energy consumption and costs. However, these materials must deliver the same quality, appearance and performance as virgin materials. We are now concentrating our efforts on nonmetallic materials, which are often composed of virgin content.
In some cases, we recycle the materials from our auto parts back into the same use, a process known as “closed-loop recycling.” For example, aluminum can be reused many times without loss of quality, and recycling aluminum requires 95 percent less energy than refining raw aluminum from bauxite, as well as avoiding the environmental impacts of mining.
We work closely with our suppliers to recycle aluminum scraps, or “chips,” from the production of the 2017 Ford F-150 to make more vehicles. These chips, most of which come from stamping windows into body panels, can comprise 40 percent of the original metal used. To achieve the level of purity required for auto bodies, we have invested $60 million in equipment that separates, cleans and shreds aluminum, and transfers it straight into designated trucks.
Where viable, we also “upcycle” materials into uses with higher material and performance requirements. In line with our global sustainable materials strategy, certain nonvisible plastic parts must be made out of plastics from post-consumer recycled waste, such as nylon, tires and battery casings. For example:
- We are working on transforming post-consumer laundry detergent containers and milk bottles into blow-molded automotive components
- We are also investigating how post-consumer drinks bottles may be used to make energy-absorbing materials
Using recycled materials for interior parts such as seat fabrics, components and carpets requires us to achieve the necessary appearance as well as performance. To date, we have developed 50 seat fabrics made from at least 25 percent post-industrial or post-consumer recycled content, and currently use recycled seat fabrics in 12 vehicles.