A partnership between Ford and McDonald’s will soon mean coffee bean waste will be used in vehicle parts such as headlamp housing.
Ford and McDonald’s USA will provide an innovative use for coffee chaff – the dried skin of the bean – naturally comes off during the roasting process.
The companies found that chaff – which amounts to “millions of pounds” in weight each year – can be converted into a “durable material to reinforce certain vehicle parts”.
By heating the chaff to high temperatures under low oxygen, mixing it with plastic and other additives and turning it into pellets, the material can be formed into various shapes.
The chaff composite meets the quality specifications for parts like headlamp housings and other interior and under hood components.
The resulting components will be about 20% lighter and require up to 25% less energy during the molding process.
Heat properties of the chaff component are significantly better than the currently used material, according to Ford.
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
This is the first time Ford has used coffee bean skins to convert into select vehicle parts.
“McDonald’s commitment to innovation was impressive to us and matched our own forward-thinking vision and action for sustainability,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability and emerging materials research team.
“This has been a priority for Ford for over 20 years, and this is an example of jump starting the closed-loop economy, where different industries work together and exchange materials that otherwise would be side or waste products.”
McDonald’s is expected to direct a “significant portion” of its coffee chaff in North America to Ford to be incorporated into vehicle parts.
“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,” said Ian Olson, senior director, global sustainability, McDonald’s.
The project also involves Varroc Lighting Systems, which supplies the headlamps, and Competitive Green Technologies, the processor of the coffee chaff.
McDonald’s and Ford plan to continue exploring ways to collaboratively use waste as a resource, while furthering their sustainability goals, the companies said.