Odd Couple: Heinz and Ford partnering up to research turning tomato fibers into auto parts

The goal is to turn the leftover parts of the two million tons of tomatoes Heinz uses to make ketchup into "100 percent plant-based plastic."

By Evan Bleier
Heinz Ketchup on a shelf. (File/UPI/Gary C. Caskey)
Heinz Ketchup on a shelf. (File/UPI/Gary C. Caskey) | License Photo

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PITTSBURGH, June 10 (UPI) -- Americans love putting ketchup on classic U.S. foods like hot dogs and hamburgers, so why not try some on traditional U.S. made cars as well?

In a joint announcement Tuesday, H.J. Heinz Co. and Ford Motor Co. declared that they will be partnering up to see whether tomatoes can be repurposed to make car parts.


Heinz ends up with a large number of byproducts while using more than two million tons of tomatoes annually to make ketchup and the hope is that the skins, peels, stems and seeds can be recycled to make a plant-based plastic.

Ford has also enlisted the help of Coca-Cola, Nike and Procter & Gamble to help create "a 100 percent plant-based plastic to be used to make everything from fabric to packaging."

"We are exploring whether this food-processing byproduct makes sense for an automotive application," said Ellen Lee, a plastics research technical specialist for Ford. "Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact."


The plastic could be used for things like wiring brackets or vehicle storage bins.

"Scientists at Heinz and Ford Motor Co. are exploring the use of tomato skins to make more sustainable automotive components," Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen said in a statement.

"The technology looks promising. At Heinz, we know tomatoes are good for people; now Ford will see if tomatoes can make its vehicles even more environmentally friendly."

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