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How Many Recycled Plastic Bottles Does It Take to Make Carpet for a Vehicle?

October 24th, 2011

While you still have a few weeks to wait to see the new Ford Escape, we thought you might find this bit of trivia interesting: The next Ford Escape uses 25 recycled 20-ounce plastic bottles in the carpeting of each vehicle. It’s also 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. 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, as well as help avoid the Fred Flintstone effect of your feet going through the bottom of your vehicle.

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 all-new Ford Escape, complete with carpets made from recycled bottles, will make its global debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Nov. 16, 2011.


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