Most modern vehicles incorporate a lot of plastics and resins. Traditionally those have come from oil. However, with the rising oil prices and a need to further improve sustainability, automakers are looking more and more towards sustainable materials when it comes to vehicle component manufacturing.
Ford Motor Company, having already adopted soybeans for seat cushions, kenaf (a tropical cotton based plant) for door panels and recycled denim cotton for sound deadening, is now exploring other options. Among them are shredded retired bills (currency), to cellulose from trees, sugar cane, dandelions, corn, even coconuts.
The idea of using retired currency is an interesting one, partly because its so plentiful right here in the U.S., some 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of retired paper currency is shredded each day, which works out to around 3.6 million pounds each year.
Once shredded, the old notes are then poured into landfills, compressed into bricks or burned. Ford sees great potential in using some of this retired currency for use in vehicle manufacturing; areas where it could be utilized include interior fixtures such as coin trays and center consoles.
“Finding alternative sources for materials is becoming imperative as petroleum prices continue to rise and traditional, less sustainable materials become more expensive,” said John Viera, Ford’s global director of Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental matters.
“The potential to reuse some of the country’s paper currency once it has been taken out of circulation is a great example of the kind of research we are doing,” he remarked.
Given that some of Ford’s sustainable material programs are already delivering significant savings (use of soybean seat cushions in the 2013 Fusion reportedly saves approximately five million lbs of petroleum annually), adopting more sustainable materials is likely to make a real impact in reducing dependence on fossil fuels, at least from a manufacturing standpoint.