On Dec. 8, Ford became the first automaker to market parts made completely from recycled ocean plastic.
Recycled ocean plastics are now everywhere. Sunglasses, running shoes, T-shirts, and various technical fibers all include plastics reconstituted from ocean trash. On Wednesday, Ford became the first vehicle brand to build vehicle parts from ocean plastics.
Production Ford Bronco Sport models, the brand announced, feature wiring harness clips made from 100% recycled ocean plastic.
If you’re wondering, yes, a wiring harness clip is the minute bit of plastic that holds a wiring harness together. For now, it appears that Bronco Sport wiring harnesses themselves, as well as all other plastic parts in the SUV and the rest of Ford’s lineup, are still petrochemical-based.
Still, the move establishes an important benchmark. GearJunkie Motors Editor-In-Chief Bryon Dorr reports that various prototypes and concepts include similar materials — but not on a production basis. Fisker and Polestar are working ocean plastics into their production vehicles but haven’t gone to market yet.
How Ford Turns ‘Ghost Nets’ Into Bronco Sport Parts
Ford’s wiring harness clips include plastics from recovered “ghost gear,” or wayward plastic fishing equipment like nets. According to Ford, the clips represent both a step forward in its sustainability push and the very beginning of its ocean plastics program.
“This is another example of Ford leading the charge on sustainability,” said Jim Buczkowski, Ford VP of research. “It is a strong example of circular economy, and while these clips are small, they are an important first step in our explorations to use recycled ocean plastics for additional parts in the future.”
The clips start with DSM Engineering Materials workers who manually recover ghost nets from the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Processing involves washing, drying, and extruding the gear into small pellets. From there, Ford parts supplier HellermannTyton injection-molds the pellets to spec — in this case, wiring harness clips.
Recycled Ocean Plastic Auto Parts Outlook
Ford forecasts that the process will eventually encompass multiple stationary plastic parts. The material meets strength and durability requirements for transmission brackets, wire shields, and floor side rails.
The Ford Bronco Sport’s wiring harness clips are the first 100% recycled ocean plastic auto parts to market. But they’re not Ford’s first go-round with recycled plastic parts. Most recently, the automaker used recycled water bottles to produce noise-reducing underbody shields on the 2020 Escape.
It’s a small step forward, but it may be an important one.
“Developments like this do not come easy,” said Anisia Peterman, HellermannTyton’s automotive product manager. “We are proud to collaborate with Ford in support of a unique product solution that contributes to healthier oceans.”