Ford Motor Company will soon be using a composite material made of coffee chaff – the dried skin of the bean which comes off during roasting – from McDonald’s coffee in vehicle parts such as headlamp housings.

As unlikely as it seems, Ford Motor Company and McDonald’s USA are partnering to use the coffee chaff set aside from your morning cup of coffee to build vehicle parts.  Both companies are committed to sustainability, and this partnership exemplifies that commitment.

Coffee chaff – the dried skin of the bean – naturally comes off during the roasting process and is traditionally considered waste material. Working together, Ford and McDonald’s found that chaff can be converted into a durable material to reinforce vehicle parts. The process includes heating the chaff to high temperatures under low oxygen, mixing it with plastic and other additives and turning it into pellets. The chaff composite material can be molded into parts like headlamp housings, and the components designed from the new composite material will be about 20 percent lighter and use up to 25 percent less energy during the molding process. Importantly, the new chaff composite meets the quality specifications for parts like headlamp housings and other interior and underhood components.

“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.”

Ian Olson, senior director, global sustainability for McDonald’s, added, “Like McDonald’s, Ford is committed to minimizing waste and we’re always looking for innovative ways to further that goal. 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 innovative project also involves Varroc Lighting Systems, the supplier of the headlamps, and Competitive Green Technologies, the processor of the coffee chaff.

McDonald’s and Ford plan to continue their collaboration to uncover other ways to use waste as a resource.