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Ford and McDonald's are teaming up to convert coffee bean skin into car parts

Ford using coffee chaff to make headlights and other parts

Every year, McDonald's produces more than 62 million pounds of coffee chaff — the unused dried skin that comes off of coffee beans during the roasting process. That's a lot of coffee waste that usually goes to landfills, but now, McDonald's is teaming up with Ford to turn that chaff into car parts. 

A hand holding coffee chaff, the unused tan skin of the coffee bean, that is often thrown away during the roasting process.
Photo of Coffee Chaff: The Roasterie

“Like McDonald’s, Ford is committed to minimizing waste and we’re always looking for innovative ways to further that goal,” said Ian Olson, senior director, global sustainability at McDonald’s, said in a press release. “By finding a way to use coffee chaff as a resource, we are elevating how companies together can increase participation in the closed-loop economy.”

The coffee chaff is collected and shipped to a company called Competitive Green Technologies, based in Ontario, Canada. 

Ford's research team has already started using agave, wheat, tomatoes, and denim byproducts to make car parts, and recently discovered that using chaff could also be used, particularly for parts that need to withstand high temperatures. 

When this unused part of the coffee bean is heated to a high temperature and mixed with plastic and other materials, it can be formed into different shapes and used in various parts. Now, chaff can be used to replace talc, a material that's mined and used to create headlights. Chaff uses 25% less energy and makes the car part 20% lighter. Ford started installing headlights made with chaff in its December 2019 Lincoln Continental. 

A company called Varroc molds and assembles the headlights.

Ford hopes to have 100% recycled and sustainable plastic on its vehicles by 2035. Ford is also looking at ways to use orange and potato peels from McDonald's waste products. 

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