Heinz has said it is looking for ways to recycle the peels and stalks of the tomatoes it uses for its ketchup

Heinz has said it is looking for ways to recycle the peels and stalks of the tomatoes it uses for its ketchup

Heinz has teamed up with automotive giant Ford to explore how tomatoes can contribute to making sustainable plastics for vehicles.

Researchers at the firms are looking into the use of tomato fibres in developing sustainable, composite materials for use in vehicle manufacturing. Specifically, dried tomato skins could become the wiring brackets in a Ford vehicle or the storage bin a Ford customer uses to hold coins and other small objects.

"We are exploring whether this food processing by-product makes sense for an automotive application," said Ellen Lee, plastics research technical specialist for Ford. "Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact."

For Heinz, this appears an effective way to recycle an repurpose peels, stems and seeds from the two million tons of tomatoes it uses to produce its ketchup.

"We are delighted that the technology has been validated," said Vidhu Nagpal, associate director, packaging R&D for Heinz. "Although we are in the very early stages of research, and many questions remain, we are excited about the possibilities this could produce for both Heinz and Ford, and the advancement of sustainable 100% plant-based plastics."