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Strength in Renewable Recyclable Materials

Materials are an important element of a vehicle's life-cycle sustainability. Choices about materials can influence the safety, fuel economy and performance of the vehicle itself and can have implications throughout the value chain. A material can be more or less sustainable based on a number of factors, including its origin (virgin, renewable or reclaimed), the resources used and emissions produced throughout its life-cycle, and its application.

Ford has been working for many years to increase the use of recycled and renewable materials and reduce the use of undesirable materials. Vehicles in North America typically are composed of 20 to 25 percent post-consumer recycled material by weight, primarily due to the extensive use of metals with recycled content. Therefore, Ford has concentrated its efforts on developing new uses for recycled materials in the non-metallic portions of the vehicle, which are typically composed of virgin materials. While the amount of recycled content in each vehicle varies, we are continuously increasing the amount of recycled material used in each vehicle line. As described in our 2009/2010 Sustainability Report, we use tools such as Design for Sustainability, life-cycle assessment and life-cycle costing to help make beneficial materials choices.

For many years, Ford has had a Voluntary Recycled Content Usage Policy, which sets targets for the use of non-metallic recycled content for each vehicle and increases targets year by year. Under this voluntary program, recycled materials have been selected for all of our vehicles whenever technically and economically feasible. Recycled materials are evaluated in-house versus comparable virgin grades, in order to guarantee appropriate mechanical properties and the same level of component performance that would be obtained with virgin materials.

We are now developing a comprehensive sustainable materials strategy to maximize the effectiveness and broaden the implementation of our efforts in this area. One of the key goals of this strategy is to identify and globally implement materials technologies that improve environmental and social performance and lower costs. To accomplish this, we are working with our commodity business planners and materials purchasers to communicate opportunities for the purchase of sustainable materials, develop and test pilot applications for new materials, and implement successful sustainable alternatives across multiple parts and vehicle lines. This process will standardize and broaden the use of sustainable materials in our vehicles. We are also developing global materials specifications, which will further facilitate the incorporation of sustainable materials where they meet performance requirements. By developing global specifications we will ensure that the benefits of more sustainable materials will have a global impact.

Whenever possible, we are introducing a recycled material specification into our virgin material specifications documents. This will simplify monitoring of the use of recycled content in our vehicles and will ensure that component engineers and Tier 1 Suppliers are confident in the recycled material, by means of a direct comparison with an equivalent virgin material.

A number of commodity purchasing plans already list recycled-content materials as a preferred material option, including those for battery trays, battery shields and wheel arch liners. For example, we developed a comprehensive resin strategy that requires the use of recycled plastics for underbody and aerodynamics shields, fender liners, splash shields, stone pecking cuffs and radiator air deflector shields manufactured in North America. Since 2009, these parts have been made out of post-consumer recycled waste from detergent bottles, tires and automotive battery casings. In 2010, we improved this strategy to specify the use of textile materials derived from 30 percent to 40 percent recycled content in the production of rear wheel liners. These fabric parts are 50 percent lighter than plastic wheel liners and absorb sound, which will enable improved noise vibration and harshness performance while potentially reducing the need for sound-deadening insulators, sprays and foams.

Many Ford vehicles already use recycled materials for these applications, including the Ford Flex, Focus, Fusion, Edge, Ranger, F-150 and Explorer, and the Lincoln MKZ, MKX and Navigator. This recycled materials resin strategy saves money and reduces landfill waste. We estimate that Ford saved $4 million to $5 million in 2009 by using these recycled materials and diverted between 25 and 30 million pounds of plastic from landfills.

In addition, Ford has a material specification that defines post-consumer, post-industrial and depolymerized recycled content and ensures that the use of in-house scrap is not counted towards recycling targets.