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Waste Not
Parts of Future Fords Could Be Made from Olive Waste

Ford engineers are conducting trials on parts made from 40% olive tree fibers and 60% recycled plastic — which is heated and injection-molded into the shape of the selected part.

Every year, pruning olive trees creates 7 million tons of waste. Ford recently announced that its engineers in Cologne, Germany could be expanding the automaker’s repertoire of circular materials through an innovative research project to explore how that agricultural waste could be upcycled to create prototype auto parts. The researchers have found the parts to be durable; and they believe experiments such as this could lead to the development of lighter-weight parts that reduce the amount of plastic used in vehicles, reduce the carbon footprint of auto parts, and bring the company closer to its goal of using more recycled and renewable content in its vehicles.

The trial was conducted as part of the COMPOlive project, designed to demonstrate the impact of using materials made from recycled and renewable materials in auto parts. For the trial, the waste materials were sourced from olive groves in Andalusia, Spain — the region with the highest production of olive oil in the world. The prototype parts consisted of 40 percent olive tree fibers and 60 percent recycled polypropylene plastic; the resulting substance was then heated and injection-molded into the shape of the selected part.

COMPOlive is the latest in a long legacy at Ford of research and innovation in sustainable and circular materials — including bioplastics made from everything from captured carbon and tomato and agave waste to guayule-based rubber; and some that eventually make it into Ford vehicles — including industry-first soybean-based foam seats and headrests, and post-consumer recycled materials including yogurt cups (in the Ford Mustang Mach-E frunk insert) and recycled ocean plastic (wiring harness clips in Ford Bronco Sport).