Heinz and Ford find common purpose as tomato fibre is used to develop a bio-plastic that can be used in cars

Heinz began collaborating with Ford because they both wanted the same thing: improving their environmental impact. This common purpose provided the bedrock for one of the most innovative of business partnerships.

One night over dinner, executives from the Heinz food company were talking about the leftover seeds, stems and flesh it has to deal with after pulping the two million tons of tomatoes for its famous ketchup. “Why don’t you send some to me?” suggested Deborah Mielewski, senior technical leader, materials sustainability at Ford Motor Company Research.

What Ms Mielewski and her team discovered was that the dried out tomato discards could be used as a reinforcing fibre for plastics.

At first, Ms Mielewski found the science so challenging that she never thought it would work. Ford discovered a way to grind the tomato fibres down, mix them with plastic and then injection mould them into bars and parts. Each Ford car contains around 300 pounds of plastic. “There are so many potential applications on a typical vehicle,” says Ms Mielewski.