Crop-based bioplastics are becoming more and more common in the packaging industry, with plastic packaging such as beverage bottles, shampoo bottles and cell phone packages being sourced from renewable resources like bamboo, sugar cane and soy. In addition to packaging, soy-based foam has found its way into Ford's North American-built vehicles in the form of head restraints.
The new head restraints are made with 25% soy-based materials, replacing the traditional petroleum-based foam commonly used in vehicle seat cushioning. Ford first used soy-based foam in its seats in the 2008 Mustang, and applied the bioplastic again in the headliners of the 2010 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner. Now, all of Ford's American-built cars have soy-based foam in their seat cushions, backs and head restraints.
By using bio-based foam, Ford is able to reduce its use of oil by more than 3 million pounds per year. The company has also achieved a 15 million pound reduction in its carbon dioxide emissions. Other renewable sources for foam that Ford is researching include rapeseed, sunflower and palm oil.
Post-consumer plastic materials are also used in the production of vehicles, in parts including carpets, fan shrouds, replacement bumpers, roof linings, instrument panels, seat fabrics and more. In 2008, according to the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, 9% of all recycled laundry detergent bottles, recycled milk jugs and other high-density polyethylene plastic products wound up in cars.