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Ford Innovates with Olive Tree Waste for More Sustainable Auto Parts

In an innovative move towards sustainability, Ford Motor Company is exploring the use of olive tree waste to manufacture parts of its future cars. This initiative, part of the COMPOlive project, aims to revolutionize the auto industry by integrating biocomposites derived from discarded olive branches, twigs, and foliage, thereby reducing the reliance on plastics.

During the olive harvest season, a significant amount of waste is generated, which typically goes unused. However, Ford’s engineers have successfully utilized this waste to create prototype auto parts like footrests and components for the boot area. This trial represents a significant step in promoting environmental sustainability in the automotive sector.

The project’s material source is Andalusia, Spain, a region renowned for being the world’s largest producer of olive oil. By repurposing the olive waste, which would otherwise be burned, Ford is contributing to cleaner air and supporting the circular economy.

The development process, spearheaded by Ford’s European headquarters in Cologne, Germany, involved meticulous testing of the waste material’s durability, strength, and mouldability. Satisfied with the results, the team proceeded to create prototype parts using a blend of the olive waste and recycled plastic. This unique composition, comprising 40% olive fibres and 60% recycled polypropylene, significantly reduces the need for new plastic.

The process involves heating the biocomposite material and injecting it into metal moulds. Once cooled and hardened, the material is ready for use in vehicle manufacturing.

Inga Wehmeyer, the project lead at Ford, expressed excitement about the initiative: “At Ford, we’re always looking for ways to become more sustainable, and sometimes inspiration can strike from the most unlikely places. In using the waste from olive trees, we have been able to substitute a significant amount of petroleum-based raw material in the interior parts. The sustainable fibres create a unique surface appearance and would be directly visible to our customers.”

Ford is currently evaluating this process for broader application in its manufacturing, particularly for electric vehicles. This initiative not only showcases Ford’s commitment to sustainability but also opens a new chapter in the use of organic waste for industrial purposes.

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