Ford and McDonald's have found a way to use your morning cup of joe to help build cars.

Ford Motor Company ($F) and McDonald's ($MCD) announced on Wednesday a collaboration involving coffee beans to create a product used to reinforce vehicle parts.

Debbie Mielewski, senior technical leader of the sustainability and emerging materials research team at Ford, explained the process to Cheddar.

While the beans roast, they shed skin which becomes "coffee chaff." The chaff is then sent to a Ford materials supplier, who "does a little chemistry on it," and figures out how to compound it into plastic. Once in the plastic, Ford can mold parts out of it.

Ford is planning to launch the process in headlamp housings since the material turns out to be more durable and has higher heat performance, according to Mielewski. But sustainability plays a major role in the product's innovation.

"It's 20 percent coffee chaff, but the magic is it's replacing 40 percent of a mineral that we had to mine from the Earth," Mielewski said. "And so it's lighter weight, and better for the environment. It's something above ground, so we don't have to ruin the planet by mining."

Sustainable initiatives aren't new to Ford. Mielewski said soy-based foam is in every Ford vehicle build in North America. She added there are 12 other sustainable materials used in production.

Inspiration for the new coffee chaff method came from the lab itself. Mielewski said everybody there was drinking lots of coffee, and they thought there had to be a useful side or waste product from the drink.

Mielewski said McDonald's makes a billion cups of coffee per year, with 2.5 million in the United States alone. She said the fast-food giant was "immediately on board" when Ford began talks.

"This one is such a win-win all the way around the table," Mielewski said. "It actually takes 25 percent less energy to mold these parts now, because we can mold at a lower temperature in our processes. So everywhere you look, you don't have to mine. You don't have to grind the talc. The coffee chaff is right in front of us. It makes so much sense to partner with McDonald's to do this."

The product debuts this month on the Lincoln Continental, with plans to move into other programs in the future.

More In Business
Load More