Once the cornerstone of economic prosperity, the passing of paper money from one hand to another is definitely on the decline in our modern digital age. Yet there are obviously lots of folks who still use cash, as evidenced by the eight to ten thousand pounds (3,628 - 4,535 kg) of crumpled and tired-looking paper currency that's said to be shredded every day in the U.S. alone, before being compressed into bricks and then buried or burned. That's a shocking waste, and car giant Ford appears to agree. As part of an ongoing effort to find sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based vehicle components, the Michigan-based multinational automaker is looking to re-use retired dollar bills in the manufacture of trays and bins, in the same way wheat straw is currently used in the Ford Flex.

Ford's research into green alternatives to petroleum-based automotive components began in the early part of this century, when a barrel of oil was priced at US$16.65. Soybean farmers approached the company in search of new ways to make use of an abundant U.S. harvest and while early attempts at creating soya-based foam were less than successful, Ford's researchers persevered and after five years managed to successfully meet the company's strict quality standards. Soya-based foam is now used for cushions in all North American vehicles, saving around five million pounds (2,268 metric tons) of petroleum every year.

The 2013 Ford Fusion is said to contain the equivalent of a little more than two pairs of blue jean denim used for sound dampening material, the new Escape features door bolsters made from kenaf (a tropical plant in the cotton family) which saves 300,000 pounds (136 metric tons) of oil-based resin annually, and wood fiber is being used in the doors of Ford's new Focus Electric. Plastic bottles are finding their way into seat fabric and carpeting, and cotton from t-shirts, sweaters and denim is being re-used in the manufacture of dashboards.

The cost of oil has risen dramatically in the years since Ford's early experiments - with the price per barrel reaching a staggering US$109.77 earlier this year - and prompted the company to intensify its search for sustainable, renewable materials.

Last year, we revealed that Ford researchers had turned their attention to chocolate to produce lighter plastic parts for the company's vehicles, now they're looking at dandelions as an alternative to rubber, coconuts coir to reinforce plastics, corn and sugar cane for alternative plastics and, as mentioned earlier, retired U.S. currency.

The company says that these readily-available, sustainable and renewable source materials may never actually be used in a future Ford product but the fact that such things are now being given serious consideration as sustainable alternatives for the 300 pounds (136 kg) of oil-based plastic found in an average vehicle - as opposed to being, at the very least, frowned upon - is a very good sign indeed.

Source: Ford