Ford and McDonald’s turn coffee beans into car parts

Ethan Jupp
Ford McDonald's coffee plastic

In what must be one of the stranger sustainability stories, Ford and McDonald’s have teamed up to make use of coffee bean skins. How? By making car parts from them, of course.

The coffee bean run-off can be used to create otherwise nondescript plastic bits, under the bonnet and for headlight surrounds. The shells are heated under low oxygen, mixed with plastic and turned into pellets. These are then formed, as plastic would be, into whatever shape is needed.

According to Ford, a ‘significant portion’ of the waste bean skins can be recycled. Every year, thousands of tonnes of ‘chaff’ – as the bean skins are known – comes off during the roasting process. 

Ford McDonald's coffee plastic

“Like McDonald’s, Ford is committed to minimising waste and we’re always looking for innovative ways to further that goal,” said Ian Olson, senior director for sustainability at McDonald’s. 

“By finding a way to use coffee chaff as a resource, we are elevating how companies together can increase participation in the closed-loop economy.”

Ford McDonald's coffee plastic

Besides finding a clever use for what would otherwise be a waste product, the coffee chaff also offers some significant advantages in comparison to contemporary materials.

For a start, it takes around 25 percent less energy to mould. Then, once the part is made, it’s 20 percent lighter and more resistant to heat. 

“McDonald’s commitment to innovation was impressive to us and matched our own forward-thinking vision and action for sustainability,” said Debbie Mielewski of Ford.

“This is an example of jump-starting the closed-loop economy, where different industries work together and exchange materials that otherwise would be side or waste products.”

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