Over the last year, upcycling has been increasingly spotlighted as providing new avenues for the creation of new value-added products across industry. Ford’s partnership with McDonald’s is turning the fast food giant’s supplied coffee chaff – the dried skin of the beans – into vehicle parts, such as headlamp housings and other interior components. By heating the chaff to high temperatures under low oxygen conditions, mixing it with plastic and other additives and turning it into pellets, the material can be formed into various shapes.
“Like McDonald’s, Ford is committed to minimizing waste. 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,” says Ian Olson, Senior Director, Global Sustainability, McDonald’s.
Meeting the quality specifications set for automobile parts, the resulting components will be approximately 20 percent lighter and require up to 25 percent less energy during the molding process.
“McDonald’s commitment to innovation matched our own forward-thinking vision and action for sustainability,” says Debbie Mielewski, Ford Senior Technical Leader, Sustainability and Emerging Materials Research Team. “This is an example of jumpstarting the closed-loop economy, where different industries work together and exchange materials that otherwise would be side- or waste products.”
Coffee chaff is currently recycled into bioenergy at McDonald’s restaurants in the Netherlands, a company spokesperson tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “This is part of our scale for good sustainability program in which we address reducing and recycling packaging and waste,” they explain.
In line with a zero-waste approach, EU-funded project WaSeaBi notes that store-bought cod filet is just 40 percent of the whole fish. Moreover, the residual parts, including the head, frame and intestines, are often disposed of, leaving the companies involved with a great expense.