The material can also withstand heat better than the stuff Ford currently uses.
Future Ford vehicles will come with some McDonald's coffee – at least in the models' components. The fast-food giant will supply the chaff from its coffee roasting process to the automaker, and the Blue Oval will use the stuff as an ingredient when producing some parts.
Gallery: Ford And McDonald's Using Coffee Chaff
Coffee chaff is the skin on the outside of the bean that comes off during roasting. It's generally a waste product. However, Ford's team finds that mixing the material with plastic and additives creates a material that's fantastic for auto parts. This deal means that McDonald’s is sending "a significant portion" of its chaff to Ford, according to the companies' announcement.
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The automaker says that the coffee and plastic mixture results in parts that are 20 percent light and have better heat properties than the materials the company uses currently. The molding process also requires 25 percent less energy.
Ford will use the coffee-based material first in headlight housings. It'll later be for underhood components, too. The company doesn't specify which vehicle might use these parts first, but going to the Ranger plant in the video might be a hint.
Ford's cringeworthy video (above) takes a while to show off this new material but eventually gets around to it. The company heats the chaff to high temperatures in a low-oxygen environment and then mixes it with plastic. The stuff apparently smells a bit like coffee during the melting process, which must be better than the nasty stench from the usual plastic.
DOUBLE SHOT OF SUSTAINABILITY: FORD AND MCDONALD’S COLLABORATE TO CONVERT COFFEE BEAN SKIN INTO CAR PARTS
DEC 4, 2019 | CHICAGO AND DEARBORN
Collaboration builds on both companies’ commitments to environmental stewardship
CHICAGO and DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 4, 2019 – Ford Motor Company and McDonald’s USA will soon be giving vehicles a caffeine boost by using part of a familiar staple in the morning routine, coffee beans, in vehicle parts such as headlamp housing.
Every year, millions of pounds of coffee chaff – the dried skin of the bean – naturally comes off during the roasting process. Together, Ford and McDonald’s can provide an innovative new home to a significant portion of that material. The companies found that chaff 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 percent lighter and require up to 25 percent less energy during the molding process. Heat properties of the chaff component are significantly better than the currently used material, according to Ford. 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.
“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.”
The collaboration with Ford and McDonald’s is the latest example of the innovative approaches both companies take to product and environmental stewardship. The project also involves Varroc Lighting Systems, which supplies the headlamps, and Competitive Green Technologies, the processor of the coffee chaff.
Ford is progressing toward a goal of using recycled and renewable plastics in vehicles globally, with an increasing range of sustainable materials.
McDonald’s is on its way to sourcing 100 percent of its guest packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025. In addition, McDonald’s is helping develop a recyclable and/or compostable cup through the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge. Both efforts are part of McDonald’s Scale for Good initiative, a global commitment to use its size and scale to drive meaningful change.
McDonald’s and Ford plan to continue exploring ways to collaboratively use waste as a resource, while furthering their sustainability goals.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles, provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions. Ford employs approximately 191,000 people worldwide. For more information regarding Ford, its products and Ford Motor Credit Company, please visit corporate.ford.com.
McDonald’s serves a variety of menu options made with quality ingredients to more than 25 million customers every day. Ninety-five percent of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by businessmen and women. For more information, visit www.mcdonalds.com or follow us on Twitter @McDonalds and Facebook www.facebook.com/mcdonalds.
To learn more about how McDonald’s is using its Scale for Good to serve delicious food that’s sustainable for customers, producers and the environment, visit
Since the turn of the century, our scientists have been researching ways to replace petroleum-based plastics with bio-based materials and agricultural by-products. We were the first automaker to use soybean-based foam, and for more than a decade, we have researched or implemented other materials for our vehicles, all to support our aspiration to use only recycled and renewable plastics in our vehicles globally, including:
2007: Soybean-based foam for seats and headliners
2008: Recycled plastic bottles for carpets, wheel liners and fabrics
2009: Wheat straw for storage bins and cup holders
2010: Post-consumer recycled cotton for door and trunk sound-dampening
2011: Recycled tires for seals and gaskets and dandelions for floor mats, cupholders and interior trim pieces
2012: Recycled/shredded US currency for small bins and coin holders and kenaf plant into door bolsters
2013: Rice hulls for electrical harnesses
2014: Tomato skins for wiring brackets and storage bins
2015: Cellulose tree bark for underhood applications
2016: Agave fiber for cup holders and storage bins
2017: Captured CO2 to convert into foams and padding
2018: Bamboo for interior and underhood plastic composite parts
2019: Coffee chaff for headlamp housings and underhood components