Ford Bronco Sport Is First Vehicle to Use Components from 100% Recycled Ocean Plastic
It's a small part, but an important one. Ford announced today its claim that the new Bronco Sport will be the first production vehicle to include components made from 100 percent recycled ocean plastic. The recycled parts are tiny—little wiring harness clips that weigh around five grams, Ford said—but they remind us that Ford has said one of its environmental targets is to someday use 100 percent sustainable materials in its vehicles.
But that's all in the future. Today, Ford is talking about little clips that connect to wires on the sides of the second-row seats as well as near the side-curtain airbags in the new Bronco Sport. Ford said that this "ghost gear," so named because it comes from discarded nylon fishing equipment that is collected, in this case, from the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, is as strong and reliable as new petroleum plastic harness clips. The recycled plastics also represent a 10 percent cost savings compared to petroleum clips, and they require less energy to make, Ford said. Ford vice president of research Jim Buczkowski said in a statement that the clips are "a strong example of circular economy."
While Ford can lay claim to putting recycled ocean plastic waste into a production vehicle, Volvo displayed a recycled-plastics demonstration vehicle made from an XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid in 2018. This concept SUV used a tunnel console that was made using "renewable fibers and plastics from discarded fishing nets and maritime ropes." The XC60 also used other recycled plastics from non-ocean sources, including carpet and seats made from PET plastic bottles.
IMAGE BY FORD
Ford has been using various recycled plastics in its vehicles for years. In 2019, Ford announced it was using the equivalent of 250 bottles' worth of recycled plastic in each new vehicle, on average. Those 1.2 billion bottles were thus kept out of what Ford called "dangerous situations, such as the Pacific gyre, for example—a floating mass of plastic bigger than the size of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean." Ford said up to 13 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean every year, which means each clip represents 0.0000049 percent of the solution to cleaning it all up. Around 10 percent of the ocean's plastic waste is made up of ghost gear, Ford said, and the amount of waste entering the oceans is on the rise. The Smithsonian said eight million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean in 2010. Good thing Ford said these clips in the Bronco Sport represent just first of many that the company plans to produce using the discarded plastic fishing nets.
Plenty of non-automotive products are made from recycled ocean plastics, such as food packaging, computer mice, and backpacks. Ford's partner in collecting the ocean plastic is DSM Engineering Materials, which also turns recycled fishing nets into a high-performance polyamide called Akulon RePurposed. Supplier HellermannTyton then takes the pellets made by DSM and turns them into the clips. Ford said it hopes to use other components out of recycled ocean plastic, like transmission brackets, wire shields, and floor side rails.