GM Recycles Its Garbage

Cammy Corrigan
by Cammy Corrigan
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gm recycles its garbage

USA Today reports that by (could it be? Yes, it is!) 2010, half of GM’s 181 manufacturing sites around the world will be “zero landfill.” In other words, The General’s factories won’t send most their industrial waste to the dump. Instead, GM’s plant trash will be recycled, sold for scrap or incinerated. “Ten GM plants, including an engine plant in Flint, Mich., already are landfill-free, and GM will have about 80 more producing little or no waste within 20 months, according to a source who would not be named because the announcement has not been made. GM had no comment.” Well, in fact, GM issued a press release on this, but I guess the whole Watergate meme is better when it comes time for that USA Today reporters’ pay review. Anyway, the EPA and GM are tighterthanthis, apparently. “The Environmental Protection Agency has worked for more than a decade with GM and other companies to cut waste through its WasteWise program. ‘The success of General Motors in creating zero-landfill facilities shows that zero-waste goals can be a powerful impetus for manufacturers to reduce their waste and carbon footprint,’ says Latisha Petteway, a spokesperson for the EPA.” And it sure won’t hurt GM’s PR campaign for their share of that $50b pot of gold at the end of the low-interest federal loans for re-tooling rainbow…

Cammy Corrigan
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  • Tony-e30 Tony-e30 on Sep 06, 2008

    Raskolnikov : I think the obvious difference between GM pursuing this and Toyota and Honda pursuing it, is that the latter two are not losing billions of dollars every quarter. They have competitive products that are outselling or threatening to outsell GM's best efforts, and they show no signs of slowing their competitive gains on the American auto industry. I'll give credit were credit is due, but I also admire a company that recognizes where its weak areas are and where it needs to focus its increasingly spare resources in order to strengthen itself. I'm not sure that converting existing factories to zero landfill is going to help GM recover from its current situation. Is this where they would determine their share of the $50b Government technology investment should go? Or would they use it for product development to strengthen their bottom line? GM should be an automotive engineering and manufacturing company first, and an environmental engineering company second. Bottom line is that overflowing, stinking, rat-infested landfills really shouldn't be GM's concern at the moment. But kudos anyway.

  • Bozoer Rebbe Bozoer Rebbe on Sep 06, 2008
    ZoomZoom : September 5th, 2008 at 1:51 pm Well now, I too would like to know how any manufacturing firm can have “zero landfill waste.” They can do it because a manufacturing facility is pretty much a closed system with identified waste streams. My guess is that the only waste stream that's tough to recycle is the food waste from the employee lunch rooms. I hate to use the argument from authority, but I actually have some credentials in the field of waste management, having been the waste mgmt coordinator for a large DuPont paint lab. As I said, the waste streams are identified, and if they can't be recycled, they can be disposed of in an environmentally benign way. Landfills are pretty much for solid waste. At the lab where I worked, we recycled paper, cardboard, steel, aluminum, plastic (we went through lots of paint can's, and spray test panels, both metal and plastic), and wash solvent (we had a large industrial still on site). Solventborne paint waste went to incinerators where its BTU content could be used to generate energy. Waterborne paint waste was incinerated in cement kilns, about the only thing that gets hot enough to burn what is essentially water. The only stuff that ended up in the dumpsters was solid waste like wipers and paper cups and break room trash. Most of the solid waste was compacted to reduce landfill use. If we'd wanted to spend the money, we could have had it incinerated too and said we were landfill free. Whether it’s the actual manufacturing process, or the leftover plastic and foil wrappers from the employee break rooms, SOME PART OF THAT FACTORY WILL ALWAYS PRODUCE THINGS THAT CANNOT BE RECYCLED. "leftover plastic"? Sprues, flash or cuttings from molded parts can be reground and remolded, depending on the polymer involved. What can't be reground can be reprocessed into other chemicals. Global Resource Corp. makes microwave based reactors that recycle a wide variety of waste streams into natural gas and petrochemicals. Like I said, what can't be recycled can usually be incinerated or deep well injected.
  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Sep 07, 2008

    Joe Horner: Well put. "Me, Myself, and I" is a terrible attitude. Everything has direct and indirect costs, both economic and social. Dumping the social costs of a company on the surrounding areas is morally bankrupt. Ben and Jerry's had the right idea with the concept of "caring capitalism." Return something to the community that helps you make your money.

  • RogerB34 RogerB34 on Sep 07, 2008

    Conversion of trash into energy by plasma is the latest technology. Pilot plant in operation. Enviros oppose.