General Motors Doubles Oil-Spill Waste Collected from Gulf Disaster

General Motors Doubles Oil-Spill Waste Collected from Gulf Disaster

Last year, long after the worst of the news from BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had receded from the headlines, we reported on a feel-good news item from General Motors that emerged in the wake of the spill:

The company is planning to collect the booms used to absorb oil from the spill along 100 miles of the Alabama and Louisiana coasts and recycle them into parts to be used in the new Chevy Volt.
GM estimates it will net about 100,000 pounds of plastic resin from recycling the booms, which it will then use to make air deflectors for the Volt's radiator. The amount of recycled plastic from the booms will be enough to supply parts for the entire estimated first year of Volt production.

Nearly six months later, it turns out the project was far more successful -- or perhaps the spill was far worse and more boom-intensive -- than imagined.

General Motors today is reporting that the project to collect booms from the Gulf of Mexico and recycle them into parts for the Chevy Volt has far exceeded its original goals, with more then 212,000 pounds of waste diverted from landfill. The material has more than met the annual demand for air-deflecting baffles in the Chevy Volt (pictured above).

"GM decided to offer assistance by collecting boom material from the Gulf coast until there was no longer a need," John Bradburn, GM's manager of waste-reduction efforts, said in a statement. "We're in the process of identifying other areas where the material we have left can be used -- potentially in our plants -- now that we have a sufficient quantity for the Volt."

Among the savings from the project, according to GM:

• Reuse 227 miles of the absorbent boom material;
• Save 29,000 gallons of water and oil from the nation's landfills;
• Eliminate 212,500 pounds of waste from being thrown out;
• Eliminate 149 tons of CO2-equivalent emissions from entering the air.

The air deflectors that use the upcycled booms, consist of 25 percent boom material, 25 percent recycled tires from GM's Milford Proving Ground vehicle test facility, and 25 percent packaging plastic from GM's Fort Wayne Assembly plant. The final quarter is a mix of post-consumer recycled plastics and other polymers.

The project highlights GM's efforts to rethink the idea of waste, which has in the last year or so focused on reducing and eliminating waste wherever possible. At the end of 2010, GM announced that half of its plants are now landfill-free, six months after it renewed its commitment to zero waste.

"We applaud GM for moving beyond traditional corporate responsibility efforts and finding a way to turn a portion of the waste from one of the worst environmental challenges in our nation's history into something valuable," Corey Lambrecht, president of Earth911 -- one of GM's partners in the project -- said in a statement today. "We need more, creative cleanup and recycling efforts like these."