You’ve probably seen Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but Ford wants to use coffee bean skin to make car parts. No, that’s not a joke, but it would make a great one. The automaker has a history of doing some interesting, sometimes clever things in the name of sustainability. This time it’s teaming up with McDonald’s to turn a byproduct of your morning cup of Joe into something useful.
Coffee chaff, which is the dry skin on the coffee bean, is something that sheds off during the roasting process.
Exactly how isn’t clear, but Ford and McDonald’s discovered they can convert the chaff into a supposedly durable material. The plan is to make things like headlight surrounds using the recomposed coffee chaff. It’s supposed to be 20 percent lighter and need up to 25 percent less energy for the molding process versus other materials, probably plastic.
To turn the chaff into something useful, it must be heated considerably in a low oxygen environment. It’s then mixed with plastic and other additives Ford’s not telling about. It sounds interesting and makes for a good PR move, but does it really shed costs? Of course, that’s the big question Ford executives will have to answer, if they haven’t already.
The automaker has been bleeding cash like crazy and CEO Jim Hackett has been slashing spending in kind. It’ll be interesting to see if this program is still around a year from now. In the meantime, Ford will use it for all kinds of positive publicity.