What do soy­beans, te­quila, and panty­hose have in com­mon?

Zululand Observer - Monday - - ZO MOTORING -

FROM an early age, it was drilled into all of us that re­cy­cling is good for the en­vi­ron­ment.

Who hasn’t been through a news­pa­per drive, col­lected used cans or set aside wa­ter bot­tles?

To cel­e­brate Global Re­cy­cling Day on 18 March, Ford Mo­tor Com­pany shed light on some of the sur­pris­ing ma­te­ri­als that make their way into the man­u­fac­ture of cars and other prod­ucts.

Re­cy­cling ma­te­ri­als have sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits, and items with re­cy­cled com­po­nents can be lighter, which fur­ther re­duces their en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print.

They are of equal or bet­ter qual­ity than the vir­gin ma­te­ri­als they re­place and of­fer a host of en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­van­tages, in­clud­ing di­vert­ing waste to land­fill, re­duc­ing the de­ple­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources, low­er­ing en­ergy con­sump­tion and cut­ting costs.


Soy­beans have many uses, in­clud­ing in trans­porta­tion.

Left­over soy­beans are squeezed, pulped and trans­formed into foam for seat cush­ions and seat backs.

Ford in­tro­duced this in­no­va­tion in 2007, and there are now 15 mil­lion ve­hi­cles on the road us­ing its soy-based foam in its seats.

The use of soy foam de­creases the de­pen­dence on petroleum, and there­fore re­duces CO emis­sions.

Wine corks

Cork comes from the bark of cork oak trees, the ma­jor­ity of which are grown in Por­tu­gal and Spain, and it takes nine years to gather a har­vest.

From Europe, cork ma­te­rial finds its way all over the world, mostly to pro­duce stop­pers for wine and cham­pagne bot­tles, and by re­cy­cling them, the use­ful life of the cork is ex­tended.

The ma­te­rial is di­verted from land­fill and can be used to man­u­fac­ture a range of ev­ery­day prod­ucts, from au­to­mo­tive gas­kets, floor tiles, to build­ing in­su­la­tion.

So, the next time you pop open bot­tle… the cork’s jour­ney car­ries on when you dis­pose of it in the re­cy­cling bin.


Tech­ni­cally it’s the agave plant, from which te­quila is de­rived, that can be re­pur­posed as bio­plas­tic ma­te­rial.

The agave ‘heart’ (it looks like a su­per­sized pineap­ple) is roasted and pressed to ex­tract the juices that will be dis­tilled into te­quila, and then the dis­carded fi­bre is mixed with plas­tic, which re­sults in a com­pos­ite ma­te­rial.

Ford re­cently teamed up with te­quila brand Jose Cuervo® to pro­duce ve­hi­cle com­po­nents made with the agave com­pos­ite.

Chewed gum

Yes, you read that right: gum that’s al­ready been chewed can be re­pur­posed.

A UK com­pany called Gum­drop has set up drop bins in cities such as Lon­don and in venues such as Le­goland theme parks, to col­lect dis­carded chew­ing gum.

Old gum is re­cy­cled into mould­able plas­tic and re-used as plas­tic com­po­nents in cars.


Panty­hose and tights are made from syn­thetic ny­lon blends, so it takes a long time (around 30 years) for them to de­com­pose once they end up in land­fill.

Re­cy­cled ny­lon is used for ve­hi­cle in­su­la­tion, cloth­ing, play­ground ma­te­rial and a host of other things.

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