Ford, Goodyear incorporate recycled plastics in new products

Jan. 31, 2022
Ford's Bronco Sport will feature wiring harness clips made from 100 percent recycled ocean plastic, while Goodyear has produced a demonstration tire with 70 percent sustainable-material content, including recycled polyester from waste plastic.

Editor's note: PMM is taking an in-depth look at plastics in transportation in February. Check our website and our upcoming print issue for more.

By Bruce Geiselman 

Recycled materials are finding new life in the fast lane, with recent announcements by Ford Motor Co. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. 

In December, Ford announced its Bronco Sport would feature parts made of 100 percent recycled ocean plastic, and said it is the first production vehicle to do so.  

The ocean plastic, collected by workers in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, is going into wiring harness clips in the Bronco Sport, and it’s the latest announcement in Ford’s environmental and sustainability efforts.  

“It’s a strong example of circular economy, and while these clips are small, they are an important first step in our explorations to use recycled ocean plastics for additional parts in the future,” said Jim Buczkowski, VP of research and Henry Ford technical fellow. 

The wiring harness clips are made of so-called “ghost gear,” nylon fishing nets that are lost at sea and can end up snaring marine animals. 

The discarded fishing nets are cut, washed, dried and then extruded to form pellets that are injection molded by supplier HellermannTyton into the clips for use on the Bronco Sport. Despite time spent in saltwater and sunlight, the strength and durability of recycled nylon equals that of virgin nylon, but the material costs 10 percent less, and it requires less energy to produce, according to Ford. 

The wiring harness clips are invisible to vehicle occupants. The clips weigh about 5 grams and fasten to the sides of the Bronco Sport’s second row of seats and guide wires that power side curtain airbags. 

Ford is planning additional parts using recycled ocean plastics, including transmission brackets, wire shields and floor side rails.  

For more than two decades, the company has used recycled plastics that are not collected from the ocean. It used recycled water bottles to make lightweight, noise-reducing underbody shields on the 2020 Ford Escape. 

Goodyear recycles bottles into tire 

Goodyear has produced a demonstration tire with 70 percent sustainable-material content, including polyester recycled from plastic bottles and other plastic waste. 

In a press release in January, it said recycled PET was reverted into its base chemicals and reformed into technical-grade polyester for use in tire cords as part of the demonstration project. 

“We set an ambitious goal in 2020 to create a tire made 100 percent from sustainable materials in 10 years, and our scientists and engineers have made great progress toward that goal,” said Chris Helsel, senior VP for global operations and CTO. “This is an exciting achievement that demonstrates our commitment to increasing the use of sustainable materials in our tires.” 

The 70 percent sustainable-materials demonstration tire announced by Goodyear includes numerous other innovations, according to the company. 

Carbon black, included for compound reinforcement and to help increase the life of tires, traditionally has been made by burning various types of petroleum products. However, Goodyear’s demonstration tire includes three carbon black materials produced from methane, carbon dioxide and plant-based oil. Initial life-cycle assessments demonstrate reduced carbon emissions compared with current methods of carbon black production, according to the company. 

The company also incorporated the use of soybean oil in its demonstration tire. The oil keeps a tire’s rubber compound pliable in changing temperatures. Soybean oil is a bio-based resource that reduces the need for petroleum products. Soybean oil is used in food and animal feed operations, and a surplus of oil is available for use in industrial applications, Goodyear said. 

The new tire contains silica produced from rice husk ash, a byproduct of rice processing that normally ends up in landfills. Silica helps improve tire grip and fuel economy. 

Bruce Geiselman, senior staff reporter

[email protected]

Contact information: 

Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Mich.,  

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Akron, Ohio, 

About the Author

Bruce Geiselman | Senior Staff Reporter

Senior Staff Reporter Bruce Geiselman covers extrusion, blow molding, additive manufacturing, automation and end markets including automotive and packaging. He also writes features, including In Other Words and Problem Solved, for Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Plastics Recycling and The Journal of Blow Molding. He has extensive experience in daily and magazine journalism.