GM Converts 100th Facility to Landfill-Free Status

Maker now recycling 2.6 million metric tons of trash annually.

by on Jun.19, 2012

Eddie Mora moves a stack of pallets bound for recycling at the General Motors Lansing Customer Care and Aftersales facility in Lansing, Michigan.

Next time you complain about taking out the trash put it into perspective: even if you’ve only got one big green bag you’re still sending more garbage to the local landfill than 100 of General Motors’ assembly plants and other facilities.

The maker today announced that it has converted its Lansing Customer Care and Aftersales facility to landfill-free status.  That makes it the 100th GM site to completely recycle 100% of its waste.

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“Our landfill-free program continues to strengthen our business by creating efficiencies, generating revenue and inspiring innovation with products made from recycled content,” Mike Robinson, GM vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs, said in a statement. “It’s a mission that’s integrated within our business processes. Everyone here plays a role in its success.”

Of the 100 landfill-free sites, 30 are in the U.S. — 14 located in other parts of North America – 22 are in Europe, 31 are in the Asia-Pacific region and three more are in Latin America.

Nearly two-thirds of the maker’s assembly plants are now completely recycling all their waste, from excess steel left over after cutting body panels to used packing material.  In fact, GM claims to now recycle more than 90% of all of its waste worldwide.

That worked out to the equivalent of 2.6 million metric tons (at 2,200 pounds per), or the equivalent of 38 million large trash bags, the company said.

That’s a sharp shift from the past when GM and other manufacturers routinely dumped waste wherever was convenient – in fact, one of the biggest challenges facing the administrators of the “old” General Motors’ assets, left over after its 2009 bankruptcy, was distributing funds necessary to clean up the sites of many of its old factories.

While the auto industry was traditionally reviled as a heavy source of pollution it actually was one of the first to embrace recycling – at least on a small scale.  Henry Ford early on specified the size and type of wood used by suppliers for their packing crates so they could be broken down, the wood slats used for the floorboards of the original Model T.

Part of the recent shift reflects pressure to go green but manufacturers have also recognized there are financial, as well as environmental benefits.

Ford yesterday announced it was targeting a 25% reduction in the amount of power used at its plants.  It has already cut energy usage by about 20% since the middle of the last decade – enough to power a typical Midwest home for a month for each car that rolls down the assembly line.

GM, meanwhile, announced plans to produce about a third of a million kilowatts of electricity from a new solar energy array it is installing at a plant in the Detroit suburb of Lake Orion.

(For more on that story,Click Here.)

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