Sixty-two General Motors manufacturing plants have achieved “zero landfill” status by recycling or reusing all normal plant wastes, meaning 43 percent of its global manufacturing facilities no longer send any production waste to landfills.
The company’s goal, announced in 2008, is to convert half of its major manufacturing facilities worldwide into landfill free operations by the end of 2010. To date, GM is 87 percent toward delivering on that commitment.
“We’ve been working for quite some time at eliminating waste and developing support systems to recycle or reuse wastes we can’t yet eliminate,” said Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Environment, Energy and Safety policy. “These plants have taken this process to its highest level. They are leading General Motors and the worldwide manufacturing industry.”
Landfill-free GM plants include 27 facilities in North America, 21 facilities in Asia-Pacific and Latin America, and 14 facilities in Europe. (CHART)
On average, more than 97 percent of waste materials from GM’s zero landfill plants are recycled or reused and about 3 percent is converted to energy at waste-to-energy facilities replacing fossil fuels.
“Reducing the impact of our manufacturing facilities is an important component of our efforts to remove the automobile from the environmental equation,” Robinson said. “We are actively pursuing ways to improve fuel economy, reduce oil consumption and reduce the CO2 emissions of our vehicles. Our work, however, goes beyond our vehicles to improving the environmental performance of our operations, too.”
More than 2 million tons of waste materials will be recycled or reused at GM plants worldwide this year. An additional 45,000 tons will be converted to energy at waste-to-energy facilities. Although “zero landfill” sites recycle or reuse their waste in some way, other GM facilities also attain high levels of recycling. Overall, GM’s global facilities currently recycle more than 90 percent of the waste they generate.
Waste elimination and recycling at GM’s zero landfill plants and other facilities will prevent more than 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emission reductions from entering the atmosphere this year. Other environmental benefits include avoiding potential environmental impacts from landfill waste. Additionally, recycling materials to make new products reduces energy use and manufacturing costs, compared to using raw materials.
Some of the materials recycled at GM’s zero landfill sites this year will include 650,000 tons of scrap metal, 16,600 tons of wood, 21,600 tons of cardboard, and 3,600 tons of plastic.
Part of the challenge in reaching zero landfill status is finding uses for recyclable materials. At GM’s zero landfill plants, even the smallest piece of waste is put to a productive reuse. For example:
In fact, GM explores opportunities to use recycled waste products from its own manufacturing facilities in parts for new vehicles. This allows for a closed-loop process where GM can divert waste that may otherwise go to landfill to good use as part of a new product. Take the headliner of the 2010 Buick LaCrosse, for example. The substrate, or backing, of the headliner is fabricated from recycled cardboard shipping containers from one of the company’s stamping plants. GM works collaboratively with suppliers in developing these closed-loop systems and in recyclable uses of waste byproducts.
GM was one of the first organizations – and to date is the only auto manufacturer – inducted into the U.S. EPA WasteWise Hall of Fame. This recognition was the result of continued outstanding waste reduction and recycling efforts at GM.