When we typically think about automotive industry sustainability, the first thing we tend to think about is fuel efficiency. How can we improve the engines so that they require less fuel? What about hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles?

But the reality is there are other ways to improve sustainability that go beyond innovating the engines. For example, how can we depend less on fossil fuels when we build this vehicle or when we source components for the vehicle? Can we achieve better fuel efficiency with this light-weighting procedure? Can we be more sustainable in our production process?

Consider the iconic clay model, a long-term staple of vehicle design. Clay enables Ford engineers to see exciting new ideas in real life, something they can build, modify and feel with their hands, not just observe on a computer monitor.

Clay

It’s a crucial, collaborative step in the design process, but one that requires significant resources. So Ford engineers stepped in and developed a way to reuse this clay, reducing waste and making the production of new vehicles more sustainable – years away from the product hitting the assembly plant and miles from the vehicle hitting the open road.

Last year alone, Ford engineers saved more than 2,267 kilograms (kg) of clay! Over the five-year lifespan of this recycling program, more than 9,000 kg of clay has been recovered and reused!

That’s enough clay to fill more than 26,000 355mL pop cans, and roughly  the weight of thirty male moose!

The act of recycling this unused product is precise in nature, requiring specially tuned machinery, unique to Ford, which processes proprietary clay material. Leftover chips of clay are compressed and churned with multiple blades, removing all the air from the material.

The clay then passes through a heated nozzle that returns reformed clay to the exact consistency required for reuse.

Clay Model

Opportunities to implement sustainable practices are all around us, and this is just one of many ways Ford engineers reduce waste while retaining an essential part of the design process.

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