RECYCLED PLASTIC BOTTLES USED IN FORD ESCAPE CARPETING
BY GERRY MILES
Sure, Kermit the Frog of “The Muppets” sang about it years ago, but the phrase and commitment to the environment has been taken seriously by many companies, especially n the automotive industry.
The main culprit – so heinous that it was even outlawed in Concord, Mass. within a year or so: plastic beverage bottles.
Reversing the trend to dislike when they’re discarded, Ford instead uses 25 20-ounce plastic bottles to produce the carpeting in its Escape. It’s the first time that Ford has used this type of carpeting in an SUV.
“It’s a good use of recycled product and keeps it out of landfills,” said Laura Sinclair, Ford engineer and mother of two young boys whose job is to make sure all materials meet Ford durability standards.
Other important facts, according to Ford:
- Total all-time sales of the next-generation Escape through June of this year were about 277,000. Multiply that number by 25, the number of bottles used in the carpeting, and you get 6,925,200 bottles potentially diverted from landfills. That’s right: nearly 7 million
- The environmental news potentially gets even better because Escape is one of Ford’s best-selling vehicles. In fact, 156,626 Escapes had been sold this year alone through the end of June.
- If that rate continues, that means nearly an additional 1.5 million bottles potentially could be diverted from landfills, bringing the total to more than 8 million bottles
All materials have to pass extensive durability tests. Sinclair and her team look for “chalking,” which appears if the fibers degrade and mash themselves into a white residue as they break apart. Chalking is a precursor to a hole forming in the carpet. “The discoloration is one of the first signs of wear, and of course something the customer will see right away,” said Sinclair.
Adding more plastic bottles to the mix reduces wear on the carpet. “The polyester fibers created from beverage bottles make up a nonwoven carpet material,” said Sinclair.
Further reducing wear is a new cast foam that backs the carpeting. This also contributes to NVH, reducing road noise while filling in ridges for a smoother backing and overall customer perception.