Recycled Plastic Bottles Find New Use in Carpeting of Next Ford Escape

  • The next Ford Escape uses 25 recycled 20-ounce plastic bottles in carpeting of each vehicle

  • That means more than 4 million bottles could be diverted from landfills and instead find a home in the next Ford Escape, based on current sales

  • The new Ford Escape will be revealed at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show in November

DEARBORN, Mich., Oct. 19, 2011 – They’re found nearly everywhere – on desks and in break rooms at work, on kitchen tables and counters at home, rolling under seats in cars, on the sidelines of athletic fields and heaped in trash cans and recycling bins.

They’re plastic beverage bottles, and seemingly not of much use when they’re empty.

But not at Ford. Ford is using 25 20-ounce plastic bottles to make the carpeting in every all-new Ford Escape utility vehicle it builds. It’s the first time Ford has used this type of carpeting in an SUV.

“It’s a good use of recycled product and keeps it out of landfills,” said Laura Sinclair, a materials engineer for Ford and mother of two young boys.

All materials – green or not – have to pass extensive durability tests. Sinclair and her team look for “chalking” during these tests – the fibers degrade and mash themselves in to form a white residue as they break apart. The chalking, or dusting, is the precursor to a hole forming in the carpet.

“The discoloration is one of the first signs of wear, and of course something the customer will see right away,” Sinclair said.

The testing is done on a device called a Taber 5150, which looks similar to a record player. A carpet sample about the size of a DVD is placed in the middle and spins while two weights rub the sample to simulate accelerated wear.

“We run the tests almost daily and can simulate five or more years of service in 10 to 15 minutes,” Sinclair said.

Part of the recipe to improve the carpet involves adding more plastic bottles to the mix.

“The polyester fibers created from pop bottles make up a nonwoven carpet material,” Sinclair said. “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.”

So adding more recycled bottles can help the carpet not wear as quickly and avoid the Fred Flintstone effect of your feet going through the bottom of your car.

Also helping to mitigate wear is that the carpeting for the new Escape will be backed with cast foam. Cast foam helps reduce road noise and also fills in ridges and crevices for a smoother backing.

This attention to detail is something Sinclair enjoys.

“I like being a materials engineer because it is hands-on and what we do has a great impact on our customers’ perception of quality,” Sinclair said.

The carpet is supplied by Autoneum and produced at its plant in Bloomsburg, Pa.

The all-new Ford Escape, complete with carpets made from recycled bottles, will make its global debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 16.

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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 166,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.