|Workers at the
Casa Orendain distillery in Tequila, Mexico, cut and load blue agave
plants into |
the cookers prior to distillation. (Bill Dowd photo)
The Ford Motor Company is joining forces with the Mexican distiller Jose Cuervo to explore the use of the tequila giant's agave plant byproduct to help develop more sustainable bioplastics for Ford vehicles. Specifically, Ford is looking into whether the properties of the blue agave plant, the basis for tequila, can be used as a greener alternative to traditional plastics, in particular those currently derived from petrochemicals.
The agave pant's fibers are very durable, and are used in a variety of manufacturing processes beyond tequila making. The heart of the plant is what is roasted then used in a distillation mash. The remaining fibers are used for composting, for specialty papermaking, for woven products, and the like.
Debbie Mielewski, senior technical leader in Ford's sustainability research department, noted that there are about 400 pounds of palstics used in the typical Ford car. "We are developing new technologies to efficiently employ discarded materials and fibers, while potentially reducing the use of petrochemicals and light-weighting our vehicles for desired fuel economy," she told CTV News in Canada.