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Ford Looks Towards McDonald’s Coffee Waste to Make Vehicle Headlights

Saad Ullah



Ford is using coffee waste from McDonald’s to make different car parts, including vehicle headlights

Illuminating Beans

With consumers across the globe becoming more concerned about waste, especially when it comes to plastics, firms and manufacturers all over the world have been forced to look towards recycling or alternatives. Some companies go to extreme lengths to ensure they use sustainable materials.

Ford, the motor vehicle giant, is one of them. It has turned towards a very unique idea of recycling materials. To make its vehicle headlights, it is now using coffee waste. The vehicle manufacturer will be using coffee chaff, the skin of coffee beans that are normally thrown away when roasting them. The coffee bean chaff will be converted into headlamp housing for specific models of Ford.

Normal production of headlamp housing sees plastic being processed with talc, a mineral rock powder which cannot be recycled. The mineral will be substituted with the coffee chaff. The use means that headlamps have the same strength and quality, but are lighter in weight.

Coffee is a beverage that is used extensively all over the world and produces immense amounts of waste, which are normally simply thrown away. After Ford was able to perfect its process, it reached out to McDonald’s to tap into their large volume of coffee use. McDonald’s doesn’t roast its own coffee, but obtains it from different suppliers. Ford has contacted the suppliers through the fast food chain in order to get the chaff.

From Food to Cars

Ford has been using different organic materials and wastes for a number of different items in their vehicles for a time now. Foam produced from soy  has been used in car seats since 2011. The company also uses wheat, tomato and a variety of other plants in their production. Talking about the organic materials being researched on, Debbie Miewelski, the Senior Technical Leader of Materials Sustainability at Ford said,

“If you came to our lab, it looks somewhere between a landfill and a farm”

The partnering up of a vehicle manufacturer and a fast food company is very unique. McDonald’s is also very conscious about its sustainability goals. It has recently been able to source all of its US based coffee sustainably, an achievement a year before its target date. This and the scale of operations of the food chain is what prompted Ford to contact them for collaborating towards a common goal of reducing their dependency on one time use materials. McDonald’s sales volume and the back end supply chain procurement means that they can provide Ford with all the coffee chaff they need.

“We’ve conventionally thought of collaborations as within the food industry,” said Director of Global Sustainability at McDonald’s, “This is just scratching the surface of trying to understand what’s possible.”


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