GM Drives Closed-Loop Manufacturing, Recycles Water Bottles for Car Parts
The bottles, collected from five of its Michigan facilities, are also being turned into air filtration components and insulation in coats for the homeless.
The automaker says while all of its global facilities recycle water bottles — this is part of GM’s initiative to achieve zero waste — it recently began collaborating with 11 business to reuse the water bottles.
John Bradburn (pictured), GM global manager of waste reduction, says this is a way for GM to manufacture more sustainable products. “Recycling is good, but viewing waste as a valuable resource that can be plugged into your operations or products is even better,” Bradburn said in a statement.
The project also makes business sense: sourcing recycled material costs the same while saving energy and reducing waste.
Additionally, GM says engaging a network of companies to process the material in North America strengthens the economy while donating 24,000 yards of insulation helps the homeless.
As part of the recycling and reuse project, Hamtramck Recycling bails the plastic bottles collected from GM’s world headquarters at the Renaissance Center, Warren Technical Center, and Orion Assembly, Flint Tool and Die, and Flint Engine plants. Clean Tech Inc. washes the bottles and converts them to flake. Unifi, Inc. recycles the bottle flake into resin. Palmetto Synthetics processes the resin to create fibers and William T. Burnett & Co. processes the fibers into various forms of fleece, serving all three applications.
Rogers Foam Corp. die cuts the fleece and EXO-s attaches it into the nylon cover for the Chevrolet Equinox V6 engine. The part helps further dampen engine noise to deliver a quiet ride.
Filtration Services Group works with New Life Center, a nonprofit jobs development and training mission in Flint, to make the panels for the air filtration fleece, which is then sent to 10 GM facilities.
The coat insulation is sent to Carhartt, a Detroit workwear company that cuts it to size.
GM also is working with various organizations such as Schupan Recycling in Flint to collect additional water bottles to plug into the project.
Andrew Mangan, executive director of the US Business Council for Sustainable Development, says this project highlights the benefits of a more circular economy, and shows how companies can drive closed-loop recycling and material reuse networks.
GM uses recycled content in many of its vehicles. Cardboard from various GM plants is recycled into a sound-dampening material in the Buick Verano headliner; plastic caps and shipping aids from its Fort Wayne facility are mixed with other materials to make radiator shrouds for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra; and test tires from Milford Proving Ground are shredded and used in the manufacturing of air and water baffles for a variety of GM cars.
In its other waste management efforts, GM turns byproducts such as polystyrene foam packaging into footwear.
GM has 131 landfill-free facilities globally.