In a seemingly unlikely relationship, the condiment and automotive worlds are colliding as H.J. Heinz Company and Ford Motor Company announce a partnership to develop a more sustainable bio-plastic material for vehicles made from tomato fiber.
Specifically, the companies will work with tomato skins, a discarded product from Heinz’s ketchup manufacturing process, which could be dried and used to become wiring brackets or storage bins in Ford vehicles.
Researchers are currently testing the materials and Ford representatives say success could reduce the use of petrochemicals in manufacturing.
“We are exploring whether this food processing byproduct makes sense for an automotive application,” says Ellen Lee, plastics research technical specialist for Ford. “Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact.”
According to Ford, the company began collaborations two years ago with the ketchup giant along with other companies like Coca-Cola and Nike Inc. Ford’s goal was to develop a plant-based plastic to be used in making everything from fabric to packaging which would have a lower environmental impact than petroleum-based packaging materials the company currently uses.
Heinz said researchers were looking for innovative ways to recycle and repurpose peels, stems and seeds from the more than two million tons of tomatoes the company uses annually to produce its ketchup.
“We are delighted that the technology has been validated,” said Vidhu Nagpal, associate director, packaging R&D for Heinz. “Although we are in the very early stages of research, and many questions remain, we are excited about the possibilities this could produce for both Heinz and Ford, and the advancement of sustainable 100 percent plant-based plastics.”