In what could be one of the most innovative examples of the circular economy to date, Heinz and Ford hope to have found a new use for the leftover tomato skins that emerge from ketchup factories.
The two corporate giants yesterday revealed the launch of a new project that aims to find out if discarded tomato fiber can be processed into bioplastics that could be used in cars and other vehicles.
Each year, Heinz processes more than two million tonnes of tomatoes for its ketchup, but is invariably left with peels, stems, and seeds that cannot be used in the production process.
However, separately the company has been working with Ford as part of a coalition of firms that also includes Coca-Cola, Nike and Procter & Gamble to develop 100 percent plant-based plastics that eliminates the use of oil.
Now the fruits of their labour are starting to pay off and the two companies have agreed to examine if waste tomatoes could provide a sustainable feedstock for bioplastic production.
If the project proves successful, Ford believes that tomato-based plastic could be used to make wiring brackets in a vehicle or the storage bin that drivers use to hold coins and other small objects.
"We are delighted that the technology has been validated," said Vidhu Nagpal, associate director of packaging R&D for Heinz, revealing that the research had already delivered some promising results.
"Although we are in the very early stages of research, and many questions remain, we are excited about the possibilities this could produce for both Heinz and Ford, and the advancement of sustainable 100 per cent plant-based plastics."