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Has Ford gone cuckoo for coconuts?

Ford and Scotts Miracle-Gro are researching the use of coconut fiber reinforcement for molded plastic parts to reduce the use of petroleum.

Ford's 'Reduce, reuse and recycle' program includes some pretty interesting, or perhaps tasty, strategies. Free Digital Photos

Ford today announced it is partnering with the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company to research how coconut coir, or husks, might be used as a plastic reinforcement.

According to Ford, the fiber from coconut coir is being used by Scotts Miracle-Gro as a carrier for its soils and grass seed products. The fiber holds 50 percent more water than basic potting soil.

Ford is looking at the same fibers to combine with plastic and deliver more reinforcement to vehicle parts and also cutting down on the need for petroleum.

"This is a win-win situation. We're taking a material that is a waste stream from another industry and using it to increase the sustainability in our vehicles," said Ellen Lee, technical expert for Plastics Research at Ford, in a press release. "We continue to search for innovative renewable technologies that can both reduce our dependence on petroleum as well as improve fuel economy."

Ford researchers working to use the coconut coir as a additional reinforcement to petroleum-based plastic say the material is lighter in weight and offers a more natural look than typical materials.

The coconut coir could be used for storage bins, door trim, seat trim or center consoles. Additionally, it could potentially be used on underbody and exterior trim, the company said.

Coconut coir is very difficult to burn, and Ford is researching whether it has natural flame-retardant properties, the company added in the release.

"Scotts Miracle-Gro uses more than 70 million pounds of coir a year in our consumer products," said Dave Swihart, Scotts Miracle-Gro senior vice president of Global Supply Chain, in the release. "Teaming up with Ford to find a high-value use for our leftover coir material is very exciting for us as we continually work to make our products and operations more sustainable."