USA: GM Recycles Water Bottles to Make Car Parts

In former times, only a few producers had the courage to admit that they use recycled materials in their brand new cars. But now recycling is a good selling point.

US-based car manufacturer General Motors Co. has underlined in a press release that the company is turning its employees’ recycled water bottles into noise-reducing fabric insulation that covers the Chevrolet Equinox engine. The bottles – collected from five of its Michigan facilities – are also being turned into air filtration components, which are used in GM facilities to protect air quality and insulation in coats for the homeless community.

“Recycling is good, but viewing waste as a valuable resource that can be plugged into your operations or products is even better,” John Bradburn, GM global manager of waste reduction, was quoted. “It is about rethinking the process and finding more sustainable ways to manufacture products and contribute to our communities.”

As reported, the American car maker has pursued this project after analyzing its impacts from a holistic business case:
■    Sourcing recycled material costs the same while saving energy and reducing waste.
■    Engaging a network of companies to process the material in North America strengthens the economy.
■    Donating 24,000 yards of insulation – enough to make 6,500 coats – helps the homeless.

The Chevrolet Equinox V6 engine cover, set on top of the engine as a demonstration, includes water bottles collected from five GM facilities (Photo: Santa Fabio for General Motors)

The Chevrolet Equinox V6 engine cover, set on top of the engine as a demonstration, includes water bottles collected from five GM facilities (Photo: Santa Fabio for General Motors)

According to GM, the producer demonstrates how a supply chain can become a supply web where business opportunities stem from an original project, furthering the mission and driving more social and economic impact. “Each partner engaged in this initiative brings specific capabilities,” the company emphasized. 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 ten GM facilities.
■    The coat insulation is sent to Carhartt, a workwear company established in Detroit in 1889, which cuts it to size.

Moreover, GM is working with various organizations to collect additional water bottles to plug into the project. Furthermore, the car maker 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 cars. According to the provided information, the company has 131 landfill-free facilities around the world and recycles the equivalent of 38 million garbage bags of by-products each year.

Photo: Santa Fabio for General Motors