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GM Recycles Oil-Soaked Booms into Chevy Volt Parts

More than 100 miles of oil-soaked plastic boom materials from Louisiana and Alabama, waste from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, have been diverted to General Motors production facilities. The company says that they have developed a method to convert the materials into usable parts for Chevrolet’s Volt.

The project diverts 100,000 lbs. of waste from landfills, and is anticipated to create enough plastic to supply production of underhood parts for the Volt’s first year of production. Recycling the booms will result in the production of more than 100,000 pounds of plastic resin for the vehicle components.

The parts, which deflect air around the vehicle’s radiator, are 25% boom material and 25% recycled tires. The remaining is a mixture of post-consumer recycled plastics and other polymers.

The Chevy Volt is the first extended-range electric vehicle with electricity created by its on-board internal combustion generator. The Volt was recently named “Green Car of the Year” by Green Car Journal. Incorporating the recycled boom material in its construction demonstrates the environmental philosophy behind GM’s sustainable production efforts. GM recently announced continued progress on its zero-waste to landfill targets.

“We knew we could identify a beneficial reuse of this material given our experience,” said John Bradburn, manager of GM’s waste-reduction efforts. “If sent to a landfill, these materials would have taken hundreds of years to begin to break down and we didn’t want to see the spill further impact the environment.”

The recovery and development process involved other companies. Heritage Environmental managed the collection of boom material; Mobile Fluid Recovery dried the booms and eliminated all the absorbed oil and wastewater. Lucent Polymers used its process to then manipulate the material into the physical state necessary for plastic die-mold production. GDC Inc.’s used a patented material process to combine the resin with other plastic compounds to produce the components.

The work in the Gulf is expected to last at least two more months. The automaker anticipates enough material will be gathered to expand beyond Volt to other Chevrolet models.

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