Each year, millions of plastic beverage bottles end up in landfills around the world. Ford, however, is putting them to good use: every all-new Escape will have carpeting made from twenty-five 20-ounce plastic bottles. Not only does this innovation help recycling efforts, but also the plastic actually makes the carpet more durable.
This is the first time Ford has used this type of carpeting in an SUV. Laura Sinclair, a Ford materials engineer, notes, “It’s a good use of recycled product and keeps [the bottles] out of landfills.”
All vehicle materials at Ford undergo extensive durability tests. For carpets, Sinclair and her team look for “chalking,” which indicates that material fibers are deteriorating into a white residue and will eventually form a hole in the carpet. The testing device, a Taber 5150, spins while two weights rub against a carpet sample to simulate accelerated wear. The test is conducted almost every day and can simulate more than five years of use in 10 to 15 minutes.
Sinclair found that after adding more recycled plastic bottles, wear was reduced. “The polyester fibers created from pop bottles make up a nonwoven carpet material. So think of it like when you make spaghetti – everything is intermixed. If you have more fibers running on each other – rather than what’s underneath, which can be more abrasive – that helps reduce wear.”
The Escape’s carpeting is also backed with cast foam to help reduce road noise and provide a smoother backing. The carpet is produced by Autoneum at its plant in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.
Based on 180,000 year-to-date sales, it’s estimated that over four million bottles could be prevented from going to landfills by using them in the new Escape’s carpeting instead. The innovation is just one of several new products and business techniques implemented by Ford in an effort to create a more eco-friendly industry and world.