Ford Gives Old U.S. Money New Life as Car Parts

DEARBORN, Michigan, April 30, 2012 (ENS) – U.S. paper currency, retired from service and shredded, is about to join soybeans, denim and plastic bottles in new Ford vehicles.

Ford executives say that because the price of petroleum, which is used to manufacture plastics, is skyrocketing, they are seeking new sustainable materials to use in Ford cars and trucks.

“The potential to reuse some of the country’s paper currency once it has been taken out of circulation is a great example of the kind of research we are doing,” said John Viera, Ford’s global director of Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental matters.

“Ford has a long history of developing green technologies because it’s the right thing to do from an environmental perspective,” Viera said. “Now, finding alternative sources for materials is becoming imperative as petroleum prices continue to rise and traditional, less sustainable materials become more expensive.”

Shredded U.S. currency (Photo by Uniquely Yours Design)

When Ford started researching sustainable materials in the early 2000s, petroleum was relatively cheap – a barrel of oil was $16.65. Earlier this year, a barrel of oil hit a high of $109.77.

As a result, the phones are ringing all day long for Ford’s sustainability research team. As the business case for using sustainable materials strengthens, interest is growing in some unexpected and interesting sources, including the shredded paper money. Ideas once considered unrealistic now merit serious consideration.

Currency paper is composed of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen. Part of the appeal of retired currency is that is so plentiful. In the United States today, 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of retired paper currency is shredded every day – more than 3.6 million pounds annually.

Years ago, currency that was taken out of circulation was burned, but because the inks used in the printing process are not good for the environment, today, most of the shredded money is compressed into bricks and landfilled.

Now, Ford is experimenting with using it in new cars.

Dr. Debbie Mielewski, technical leader of Ford’s Materials Research and Innovation team, said, “We have been working with an ever-increasing list of collaborators – chemical companies, universities, suppliers and others – to maximize efforts and develop as many robust, sustainable materials as possible for the 300 pounds of plastic on an average vehicle.”

Shredded currency is being considered for interior trays and bins, said Mielewski.

Soybean-based foam material, used in seat cushions, backs and head restraints, saves Ford an estimated five million pounds of petroleum annually.

The new Ford Fusion contains the equivalent of slightly more than two pairs of average-sized American blue jeans as sound-dampening material to help eliminate unwanted road, wind and powertrain noise.

Ten pounds of scrap cotton from blue jeans, T-shirts and sweaters go in to the dashboard of each Ford Escape. The equivalent of 25 recycled 20-ounce plastic bottles helps make the Escape’s carpet.

The Ford Flex has wheat straw in its plastic bins.

The new Ford Focus Electric, just now arriving at the first 65 U.S. dealerships, uses a wood-fiber-based material in its doors and recycled plastic bottles in its seat fabric.

“Building vehicles with great fuel economy is our highest priority in reducing our environmental impact,” said Carrie Majeske, Ford’s product sustainability manager. “We recognize the use of sustainable materials inside our cars, utilities and trucks can also help reduce our environmental impact. These are steps that are not only better for our planet in the long run but are cost-effective as well.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.