Ford and McDonald's Collaboration Leads to Unexpected Use for Coffee Chaff


Large companies create large amounts of waste, but Ford and McDonald’s are trying to change that as they independently and collaboratively work towards finding and upholding environmentally friendly solutions. Ford is not only working towards using recycled and renewable plastics in vehicles, but they are also investing $11 billion through 2022 on hybrid and all-electric vehicles. McDonalds is working towards helping the environment by working towards sourcing 100 percent of its guest packaging from renewable, recycled, or certified sources by 2025. These two companies realize there is no limit to reusing and resourcing materials and came up with the unique feat of turning coffee chaff, the skin of the coffee bean, into car 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.”


Every year, millions of pounds of coffee chaff naturally comes off during the roasting process and is thrown away as waste. Ford and McDonald’s united their research teams to discover that when coffee chaff is heated with reduced oxygen and added to plastic and other additives, a malleable substance emerges that can be molded into various shapes. Not only does this new substance meet the quality requirements for vehicle parts such as headlamp housings, but it also needs 25 percent less energy in the molding process and is 20 percent lighter than the current material that is used. Ford also noted that the heat properties of the coffee chaff are much better than that of the material currently used.


“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, McDonald’s. “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.”


To complete this project, Ford and McDonald’s also received the help of Varroc Lighting Systems who supplied the headlamp housings and Competitive Green Technologies, the processor of the coffee chaff. McDonald’s and Ford will continue their collaborative efforts in repurposing materials to help the environment, and McDonald’s will continue to supply Ford with a large amount of their coffee chaff from North America. 


Continuing with green efforts, Ford currently has a large line-up of hybrid vehicles available and announced the release of their first all-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E. If you want your next vehicle to be a greener choice, check out Dunphy Ford in Philadelphia and our selection of Hybrid Ford vehicles!

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