All of us have to recycle – it really does help our planet and humanity. However, recycling in our home is not as important as one in huge industrial plants. Recycling of industrial waste helps reducing the cost of production as well as reduces environmental impact of the factory operations. Ford recently shared a story how a simple innovation helps the company recycle 20 million pounds of aluminium a month.
It is a little more than 9 thousand tons. A vast amount of metal waste is prevented by using a closed-loop recycling system, invented by Chip Conrad, a Ford stamping engineer. Not only it is good for the environment, it is very good for Ford – company saves enough high-strength aluminium to make 51 commercial jetliners or more than 37,000 new F-Series truck bodies a month. So it is clear that it makes economic sense to recycle aluminium, as Ford does not have to scrap so much of it.
For the environment it is also very good, because it takes one-tenth the energy required to reprocess scrap aluminium than it does to make new aluminium. Energy, sadly, is still usually produced using not environmentally friendly methods, so saving it is not just economically sound decision, but also an environmentally conscious one. But how does this system work?
Ford says that it is best to think of it as a water slide, but it is a much bigger device. It is automated vacuum system with excessive amount of tubing, through which shredded aluminium is flowing. When doors and other body parts of F-150 trucks are stamped, unusable scraps are shredded and get sucked into the system. System sorts the metal by the grade of aluminium and then dumps it out into a truck. Since there is no manual labour involved, the closed-loop recycling system is really efficient and cost-effective.
Previously aluminium recycling was actually not economically viable in some cases, as the cost of the new material would be less than efforts spent trying to separate different grades and transport them out of the factory. Now in three Ford plants it happens instantly. It is especially important in F-150 pickup truck production, because of how popular it is. Conrad, the inventor of Ford’s closed-loop recycling system, said: “Our ability to recycle leads to improved fuel economy and capability for our truck customers. And it helps us build more affordable, high-performing, efficient trucks”.
It is an interesting and extremely efficient solution. Ford is known for its efforts to reduce environmental impact of car production, especially through the use of recycled materials. Europeans would be shocked to find out how relatively cheap F-150 is, and Ford’s attention to detail in production lines is one of the reasons (although not the main one) why the pricetag is so jaw-dropingly attractive.