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Ford partners with McDonald’s to repurpose its trash coffee bean chaff

Value menu Mustang.

ford using mcdonalds coffee chaff for car parts
Image: Ford

In odd corporate partnership news on this fine December weekday, we have Ford Motor Company announcing that it will be partnering with McDonald’s to use coffee bean chaff in the car assembly process.

McDonald’s serves a ton of coffee each year, coffee that barely qualifies as coffee but seems to be enjoyed by the general public, who apparently don’t know what coffee tastes like without a metric ton of sugar. This creates millions of pounds of coffee chaff (the dried skin of coffee beans). According to Ford, and likely a bunch of scientists, this coffee bean chaff can be used to create car parts.

The chaff can be heated, mixed with plastic and other additives, formed into any shape needed and used in parts like headlamp housings, interior, and other plastic components. For the benefit of car buyers, this makes those parts 20% lighter. For the benefit of Ford, this process uses 25% less energy during the molding process. This saves money and maybe in some tiny way, the environment.

“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 in the press release. “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 also threw out that closed-loop nonsense phrase as it committed to dump most of its North American coffee chaff on Ford’s doorstep.

“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.”

This is probably the best use for McDonald’s coffee, especially since Wawa joined it at most of the highway interchanges around here. Regardless, it’s one of many initiatives by McDonald’s to create a sustainable business model so it can do its part to save the Earth for the next generation while we all die of heart disease.

By 2025, McDonald’s hopes to have 100% of its packaging be from recycled materials, as well as having developed a compostable cup. Ford meanwhile is continuously seeking ways to used recycled and renewable plastics in its vehicles, realizing that yes, oil is a limited resource and will eventually run out. Until that point however, we can sleep easier at night knowing every time we buy a cup of McDonald’s coffee, a headlamp housing is born.

What do you think? Glad to see this or is it just a PR move? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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A tech writer on the internet for over 15 years for outlets such as Forbes, Wired, TNW, and others, Curtis is exhausted, burnt out and happy to just write buying guides and the occasional review for KnowTechie, the best tech blog your mom never told you about. Ephemeral existence for ephemeral times. Please send pitches and grainy pictures of the inside of your elbow to kevin@knowtechie.com

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