DEARBORN — Ford Motor Co. and Greensboro, N.C.-based Unifi Inc. announced Thursday that the use of Unifi’s Repreve fabric will divert about 2 million post-consumer plastic bottles for use in the new Focus Electric and other new vehicles for the next model year.
The Focus Electric contains Repreve-based fabrics that are made from about 22 recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles in each car. This is the first Ford vehicle to have an interior made from 100 percent clean technology.
“Ford is committed to delivering vehicles with leading fuel efficiency while targeting at least 25 percent clean technology in interior materials across our lineup,” says Carol Kordich, lead designer of Sustainable Materials for Ford. “The Focus Electric highlights this commitment as Ford’s first gas-free vehicle, and the first in the automotive industry to use branded Repreve.”
Added Roger Berrier, president and COO of Unifi (NYSE: UFI): “After decades of education, the United States PET bottle recycling rate is only at 29 percent, about half the rate of Europe. We hope this recycling initiative with Ford will help raise visibility around the importance of recycling with a goal to drive recycling rates to 100 percent, diverting millions of plastic bottles from entering the waste stream and potentially back into Repreve-branded fibers.”
Ford and Unifi will help collect some of the bottles destined for Ford vehicles by recycling plastic bottles from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Jan. 9-10 and the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan. 10-13.
Repreve seat fabric is a polyester fiber made from a hybrid blend of recycled materials, including post-industrial fiber waste and post-consumer waste such as the plastic water bottles made of PET.
Using Repreve also reduces energy consumption by offsetting the need to use newly refined crude oil for production. The technology meets all Ford design and comfort requirements to help ensure the Focus Electric and other vehicles meet the company’s high performance standards.
“We aimed to make the Focus Electric the most overall sustainable vehicle available to consumers, from using clean technology to overall vehicle efficiency,” said Kordich.
The Focus Electric, Ford’s first all-electric passenger car, started production in December at the refurbished Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. When full production is under way in March, the car’s seat fabric could contain plastic bottles collected at NAIAS or CES.
Ford’s “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” commitment is part of the company’s broader global sustainability strategy to reduce its environmental footprint while at the same time accelerating the development of advanced, fuel-efficient vehicle technologies around the world.
Currently Ford vehicles are approximately 90 percent recyclable at end of life. By using recycled content in its vehicles and ensuring its parts are recyclable, Ford is leading the industry in recycling efforts. Ford’s goal is to have its vehicles be 100 percent recyclable.
In 2009, Ford mandated that fabric suppliers use a minimum of 25 percent recycled content for all 2009 and beyond model year vehicles. Since then, 37 different fabrics meeting the requirements have been developed and incorporated into Ford vehicles.
Examples include soy foam seat cushions and head restraints, wheat straw-filled plastic, castor oil foam in instrument panels, recycled resins for underbody systems, recycled yarns on seat covers and natural-fiber plastic for interior components.