The Green Festival…and the use of coconut coir in Ford auto parts

I posted some photos from the San Francisco Green Festival, at NativeLeaf.info’s blog.

The Ford Motor Company is a major sponsor of the festival.  Pictured below was an area with information on Ford’s new lightweight plastics.  It was most interesting to learn about the use of  natural fiber reinforced plastics –  coconut coir, wheat straw, hemp and cellulose in place of glass fibers for plastic reinforcements.

Here is an excerpt from an article on Ford’s media pages(Crazy for Coconuts)…Note, the article was from last year, and from the Festival information, the use of natural fibers in plastics used in Ford vehicles is now in place.

Coconuts are ingredients in plenty of items – pies, cakes and tropical drinks. Now, Ford is hoping to add cars to that list by working with The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company to research how coconut coir, or husks, might be used as a plastic reinforcement.

“This is a win-win situation. We’re taking a material that is a waste stream from another industry and using it to increase the sustainability in our vehicles,” said Dr. Ellen Lee, technical expert for Plastics Research at Ford. “We continue to search for innovative renewable technologies that can both reduce our dependence on petroleum as well as improve fuel economy.”

Coconut coir is a natural fiber from the husk of a coconut. ScottsMiracle-Gro uses the material as a carrier for its soils and grass seed products, including Scotts® Turf Builder® EZ Seed® and Miracle-Gro® Expand ‘n Gro™ Concentrated Planting Mix. Both products use the coir’s natural fibers to hold 50 percent more water than basic potting soil and release it as plants need it – helping homeowners save water.

“ScottsMiracle-Gro uses more than 70 million pounds of coir a year in our consumer products,” said Dave Swihart, ScottsMiracle-Gro senior vice president of Global Supply Chain. “Teaming up with Ford to find a high-value use for our leftover coir material is very exciting for us as we continually work to make our products and operations more sustainable.”

Once the coconut coir comes to Ford, researchers combine it with plastic to deliver additional reinforcement to the part while eliminating the need for some petroleum. Along with making use of a renewable resource, the new part would be lighter in weight. The natural long fibers also are visible in the plastic and offer a more natural look than typical materials.  Read the rest of the article here…

Of course, my interest in this is the coconuts, having grown up in coconut land, the Philippines.  Several years ago, I also learned about research using abaca (musa textilis, the banana-like fiber native to the Philippines) with fiberglass technology.

Natural materials in plastics and new technology…what do you think?

Now that you are here, I would love to know what you think...comments are always appreciated.