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Ford teams with McDonald’s to build car parts

Abdel Jimenez
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — McDonald’s coffee bean remnants are getting repurposed in the form of car parts.

Researchers from Ford, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker, are using McDonald’s coffee chaff — the waste left over after the roasting process — to make headlamp housings and other automotive components.

Ford started production this month using the coffee skin on new models of its Lincoln Continental.

While Chicago-based McDonald’s doesn’t roast its own coffee, the company will connect Ford with a variety of its suppliers in the U.S. and Canada. A Ford news release didn’t give exact figures but said a “significant portion” of McDonald’s coffee chaff will be reserved for the project.

Ford will heat the chaff and mix it with plastics and other materials to form pellets that can be molded into different shapes to create interior car components. According to the automaker, the parts will be 20% lighter than before and require about 25% less energy during the heating process.

The automaker also recruited Competitive Green Technologies, a Canadian firm, to process the coffee chaff and Varroc Lighting Systems, an India-based manufacturer.

Repurposing materials is nothing new for Ford. Over the years, researchers at the company have used materials such as soybean-based foam, recycled plastic bottles, agave fiber and bamboo to make a wide variety of parts inside vehicles.