June 10, 2014 at 11:50 am

Tomato, Tom-Auto: Ford, Heinz hope to use tomato skins in car parts

Ford Motor Co. and ketchup-maker H.J. Heinz Co. are collaborating on research that could make dried tomato skins a part of your next car.

The iconic American companies say dried tomato skins could be turned into a composite material for wiring brackets or the storage bin that holds coins and other small objects in future Ford vehicles.

“We are exploring whether this food-processing byproduct makes sense for an automotive application,” Ellen Lee, Ford’s plastics research technical specialist, said in a statement.

According to a joint news release, scientists at both companies believe they can use tomato fibers to manufacture composite materials instead of petroleum-based plastics.

Ford started working with Heinz, Coca-Cola Co., Nike Inc. and Procter & Gamble two years ago to develop 100-percent plant-based plastic that could be used to make fabric and packaging to lower environmental impact when compared to the current petroleum-based packaging materials.

Heinz processes 2 million tons of tomatoes every year and was looking for a way to reuse — and not waste — the skins from those tomatoes.

Ford already uses coconut-based composite materials, recycled cotton material in its carpet and seat fabrics, and soy foam seat cushions and head rests, to name a few.

khenkel@detroitnews.com
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