Putting Plastic to Good Use: How Ford is Using Recycled Materials to Create Environmentally Friendly Vehicle Parts

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Ford Motor Company is promoting the use of recycled materials for environmentally friendly vehicle parts. Annually, Ford uses roughly 1.2 billion recycled plastic bottles in their vehicles — an average of 250 bottles per vehicle. These recycled bottles are used in the underbody shields on all cars and SUVs as well as the wheel liners on F-Series trucks.


"The underbody shield is a large part, and for a part that big, if we use solid plastic, it would likely weigh three times as much," said Thomas Sweder, design engineer at Ford Motor Company. "We look for the most durable and highest performing materials to work with to make our parts, and in this case, we are also creating many environmental benefits."


After plastic bottles are recycled and collected, they are shredded into small pieces and sold to suppliers. Suppliers melt the small pieces and mix them with other types of fibers in a textile process to make a sheet of material. Once that sheet of material is made, it is formed into automotive parts.


In the past decade, the use of plastics in vehicle parts has grown. Recycled plastic is the ideal material to use for underbody shields, engine under shields, and front and rear wheel arch liners because of its light weightimproving vehicle aerodynamics and reducing cabin noise.


"Ford is among the leaders when it comes to using recycled materials such as this, and we do it because it makes sense technically and economically as much as it makes sense for the environment," Sweder said. "This material meets all of our robust specifications for durability and performance." 


The use of recycled plastics not only improves vehicle aerodynamics but also reduces the amount of plastic in the environment, helping to keep it from ending up in dangerous situations such as the Pacific gyre — a floating heap of plastic in the Pacific Ocean that is larger than Mexico.


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