Tomatoes are already found in soup, ketchup, and most Italian dishes, but researchers at Ford and Heinz may have discovered the secret sauce to making car parts from them. The companies' boffins are currently investigating the potential use of waste tomato peel for the manufacture of interior car parts, such as wiring brackets, and dashboard-based storage.
The progress follows Heinz's attempts to find new uses for the unwanted peel, stems and seeds that go to waste when the company turns tomatoes into ketchup. A considerable amount of waste could potentially be saved from ketchup alone, given that over two million tons of tomatoes are made into ketchup by the firm annually, and the peel is unused in this process.
Though still in development and thus subject to change, the basic process of making a viable plastic from tomatoes proceeds as follows: tomato peel is first crushed into a pulp, before then being made into tomato fiber pellets (pictured above). Those pellets are run through the laboratory and mixed with other materials.
The end result is completely odorless, though the researchers report that it does smell a little like pizza during the molding process.
Though the news is promising, it's early days yet and Ford and Heinz haven't revealed much else in the way of further concrete details. Gizmag spoke to a Ford representative, who explained that the team reckons a finished result is "more than a few months away, but not years away."