General Motors says that 52 percent of its worldwide facilities are now landfill-free, meaning all waste generated from normal operations is reused, recycled or converted to energy. The company had a goal to convert half of its 145 plants to landfill-free status by the end of 2010.
GM now has 76 landfill-free facilities. GM’s first facility to achieve landfill-free status was an engine plant in Flint, Mich., in 2005.
Their methodology started with a decrease in the amount of waste generated, and then a focus on recycling for the unavoidable waste. In 2010, GM has recycled or reused 2.5 million tons of waste materials at its plants worldwide, efforts have eliminated 8.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions from entering the atmosphere.
“Whether it’s a facility that’s already achieved landfill-free status or one of the many that are nearly there, every site is serious about finding ways to reduce and reuse waste,” said Mike Robinson, vice president of Environment, Energy and Safety Policy at GM.
On average, more than 97 percent of waste materials from GM’s zero-landfill plants are recycled or reused and less than 3 percent is converted to energy at waste-to-energy facilities, replacing fossil fuels. The company has reduced total non-recycled waste 75 percent between 2000 and 2010 at manufacturing sites around the world. During the last five years, it decreased waste generated per vehicle by 28 percent.
A key step to the landfill-free operation has been the efforts to transform material byproducts from manufacturing operations into new-vehicle components. Examples include cardboard shipping materials recycled into sound-absorber material, and paint sludge turned into plastic material and used for shipping containers.
“In addition to the environmental benefits, recycling provides a strong business case,” said Robinson. “GM has generated more than $2.5 billion in revenue since 2007 through its various recycling activities.”