is looking to put a new twist on the term "old money." The automaker may add old, shredded, out-of-circulation U.S paper currency to its list of recyclable materials that may be used for cushions, insulation and other components.

With about 10,000 pounds of paper money being shredded per day, Ford is exploring adding it to a list of recyclable or reclaimed materials that includes soybeans, denim and plastic bottles.

Ford has cut its petroleum use by about 5 million pounds a year by using soy-based material for foam that is installed in seat cushions and head restraints. And each Ford Fusion is built with the denim-equivalent of about two pairs of blue jeans that's used for sound-dampening purposes.

Ford started looking into using recycled materials about ten years ago as a way to cut use of petroleum in components that usually require plastic. At that time, oil cost about one-seventh of what it costs now.

In January, the company said it would use recycled plastic bottles from the North American Auto Show in Detroit and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to create part of the polyester fiber used in the Ford Focus Electric's seats.
Show full PR text
Higher Oil Costs Could Speed Up the Use of New 'Green' Materials Such as Old U.S. Paper Money in Future Fords

DEARBORN, Mich., April 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
  • The price of petroleum – used to manufacture plastics – is rising, making a stronger business case for finding new sustainable materials for Ford cars and trucks
  • Potential alternatives to petroleum-based products, including old U.S. paper currency retired from service and shredded, could join soybeans, denim, plastic bottles and other materials used in Ford vehicles
  • A prime example is soybean-based foam material, used in seat cushions, backs and head restraints, which saves Ford an estimated 5 million pounds of petroleum annually
  • Rising oil prices have Ford upping the ante in its push to reduce petroleum dependence and use more sustainable materials – including retired U.S. paper currency – to make parts.

A wide range of alternatives to products now made with petroleum are under review for potential application in Ford vehicles – from shredded retired currency to cellulose from trees, Indian grass, sugar cane, dandelions, corn and coconuts.

"Ford has a long history of developing green technologies because it's the right thing to do from an environmental perspective," said John Viera, Ford's global director of Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental matters. "Now, finding alternative sources for materials is becoming imperative as petroleum prices continue to rise and traditional, less sustainable materials become more expensive.

"The potential to reuse some of the country's paper currency once it has been taken out of circulation is a great example of the kind of research we are doing," Viera added.

In the early 2000s, when Ford started heavily researching sustainable materials, petroleum was readily available and relatively cheap; a barrel of oil was $16.65. Earlier this year, a barrel hit a high of $109.77.

Adding to the appeal of the new potential resources is that they are so plentiful. For example, 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of retired paper currency are shredded daily – more than 3.6 million pounds annually. The shredded money is either compressed into bricks and landfilled, or burned.

New sustainable materials that can meet Ford's stringent requirements and testing could join a growing list of alternatives to petroleum-based materials already in use.

Ford's use of soybean-based cushions in all of its North American vehicles including the all-new Fusion, for example, saves approximately 5 million pounds of petroleum annually. The all-new Escape has door bolsters partially made of kenaf – a tropical plant in the cotton family – offsetting the use of 300,000 pounds of oil-based resin per year in North America.

It's just a start.

Pie-in-the-sky no more

"Building vehicles with great fuel economy is our highest priority in reducing our environmental impact," said Carrie Majeske, Ford's Product Sustainability manager. "We recognize the use of sustainable materials inside our cars, utilities and trucks can also help reduce our environmental impact. These are steps that are not only better for our planet in the long run but are cost-effective as well."

Ford has concentrated on increasing the use of non-metal recycled and bio-based materials to reduce its dependence on petroleum products. Examples include:
  • The new Fusion contains the equivalent of slightly more than two pairs of average-sized American blue jeans as sound-dampening material to help eliminate unwanted road, wind and powertrain noise
  • Kenaf is used in the door bolsters of Escape
  • Ten pounds of scrap cotton from blue jeans, T-shirts, sweaters and other items go in to the Escape's dashboard
  • The equivalent of 25 recycled 20-ounce plastic bottles helps make the Escape's carpet
  • Focus Electric uses a wood-fiber-based material in its doors and recycled plastic bottles in its seat fabric
  • Flex has wheat straw in its plastic bins
  • Taurus SHO uses a micro denier suede made from 100 percent recycled yarns

These days the phones are ringing off the hook for Ford's sustainability research team. As the business case for using sustainable materials strengthens, interest is growing in the potential of some unexpected and interesting sources, including the shredded paper money and coconut fibers. Ideas once considered pie-in-the-sky now merit serious consideration.

"We have been working with an ever-increasing list of collaborators – chemical companies, universities, suppliers and others – to maximize efforts and develop as many robust, sustainable materials as possible for the 300 pounds of plastic on an average vehicle," said Dr. Debbie Mielewski, technical leader of Ford's Materials Research and Innovation team.

That leaves sustainable materials like shredded money being tested to determine how well they perform under certain conditions. Researchers can then recommend potential use. Shredded money, for example, is being considered for interior trays and bins, said Mielewski.

There is no guarantee any or all of these sustainable materials will end up in Ford cars and trucks, she added. But Mielewski is excited about how much more attention and support her team – and the whole subject of sustainable materials – is receiving.

Ugly bean – pretty useful

"When we first started talking about this stuff 10 years ago, it was mainly automotive and trade magazines showing interest in our research," said Mielewski. "Now it seems to be everywhere. We are working on very exciting research and it will be interesting to see what comes next and how fast."

Soybeans could be considered the root of Ford's effort to use more sustainable materials, which lower environmental impact while providing a performance equivalent to the materials they are replacing.

Henry Ford first experimented with soybeans in the early part of the last century, but the current soybean project began 10 years ago when a group of farmers approached Ford seeking new uses for the abundant soybean crop in the U.S. Midwest.

Ford researchers challenged themselves to develop soybean-based foams that met every performance and durability requirement. They chose to use the material in seat cushions because they account for two-thirds of the foam (or about 25 pounds) used in a single vehicle.

"We had to come up with a product that performed as well as or better than the products we had been using for decades," said Mielewski.

Early versions of the soybean cushion were fraught with problems – from strong odor to falling short of Ford's stringent quality standards. Labs full of the failed attempts still exist on Ford's Dearborn campus.

"Because Ford has such high standards, it took a long time," said Mielewski. "But after five years, we were finally able to meet every single requirement – compression, durability, everything."

Still, in the early 2000s the fact remained: Petroleum and plastic were inexpensive, and it was just too costly to change the way things had been done for about 100 years. The lack of urgency at the time became an advantage, said Mielewski.

"We were left alone to get creative, take our time and figure out where and how these – and future – sustainable materials might fit into our vehicles and processes, and that's great news for both our customers and the environment," said Mielewski.

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F), a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 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 and its products worldwide, please visit

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      That would be a nice conversation starter! How do the seats feel? Like a million bucks!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I cant wiat for comments about Ford seats filled with $ feeling like a million bucks.
      Dark Gnat
      • 3 Years Ago
      So Ford IS taking government money. I knew it!!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Honest officer. Fido the drug dog must be mistaken. There are no drugs in my car. That's not what Fido says ; officers, cut open every seat in this car. Ahhh ha.....this car must be seized...this is obviously drug money.
      • 3 Years Ago
      A headliner made from old benjamins would be a perfect style piece for all the Crown Vics and Lincolns on 24-inch wheels rolling around the West Side of Chicago.
        Carlos Cruz
        • 3 Years Ago
        I was just about to say the same thing about all of the Crown Vics, Lincolns and 300s driving around the west side of Downtown Orlando.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Carlos Cruz
          I was just about to say the same thing about all of the Crown Vics, Lincolns, 300s, (and any other car you can imagine) driving around the south side of Columbus, Georgia.
      • 3 Years Ago
      being in the petroleum industry, for most of my life. I am pleased to see folks making honest change from fossil fuels when feasable. Not like the ethanol debacle, which costs more AND pollutes more IN THE END(it does cost fuel to convert), while providing less horsepower and Economy, this is true "green" in more ways than one LOL. and true Blue in many ways as well. I hope this sort of thing continues, Its the only way to get the pop bottles old bluejeans and Indestructable money out of circulation.
      • 3 Years Ago
      As though the parts don't cost enough now....lets make them out of money.....oh..... the irony.....Paying good money to use old money to stuff seat cushions.
      Sergio Freddson
      • 5 Months Ago

      This is very interesting! I wonder if this could somehow be used in their advertising process. Any type of recycling is good in my opinion. I think it's great that they are even considering the option. Thanks for sharing!

      • 3 Years Ago
      Why not use new bills? They are worthless. Obama is printing it like its wrapping paper. The fed is buying our own debt. Inflation is 14%. Wake up morons. The end is near. Funniest part is you'll probably reelect him. Ha! Can't make this stuff up. Truth is stranger than fiction.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have no interest in sitting on money that hundreds if not thousands of people touched , some without washing their hands after going to the bathroom...... NOT INTERESTED AT ALL.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I could say the same for the seat belts on anything but a showroom-spankin-new car. And you can't even toss them in the wash.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Do you not keep your money in your wallet and put it in your back pocket?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Then dont. how do you pay for things probably your debit card because you dont want to touch money, but as you swipe what do you do then, do you rough it and touch the pin pad or do you just constantly wear gloves, what a hypochondriac.
        • 3 Years Ago
        This is why I only buy brand new cars, drink bottled water, throw away socks and cutlery after using them once. Can you imagine potentially coming into contact with germs, ever? Gross! I hope you wear gloves everywhere to protect you from door handles, phones and gas pumps.
      • 3 Years Ago
      soy-based materials are a huge hit on the water supply and take up farmland needed for food crops which drives up food prices.
        • 3 Years Ago
        This will be posted 100 times as more people pretend to know what they're talking about The US Government pays farmers to not grow crops on their land to keep crop prices from collapsing. We are not strapped for farmland in the United States.
          • 3 Years Ago
          We wouldn't be exporting nearly half of our soybean crop if demand in the US was so high. Soybeans are grown in off years to replenish nutrients in the soil. And yes, the price of popcorn went up because movie theater snacks are not tied to inflation or crop prices, rather to the insane profit margin the movie theater wants to make on selling snacks.
          • 3 Years Ago
          Check your "facts" about agricultural ploicy. I think you are way off. At a minimum confusing some programs. Soy is subsidized to be grown.
          • 3 Years Ago
          Oh, right that's why our (an independed cinema) popcorn prices jumped 30% the year they put that ethanol fraction mandate in.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hear that GM, it's called innovation. Try some, its good for your health.
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