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General Motors

General Motors’ Do Your Part Water Bottle Recycling Initiative

General Motors is collecting water bottles from six of its facilities as well as the Flint community and then funneling them into its Do Your Part project. GM designed a supply web that converts the bottles to fleece to make 2017 model year Chevrolet Equinox V-6 engine cover sound insulators (seven bottles each), insulation for The Empowerment Plan coats for the homeless (31 bottles each), and GM facility air filters (six bottles each).

GM sought to go beyond the traditional supply chain and develop a supply web that keeps materials in use while creating satellite projects that benefit communities and the environment. Supply webs are dynamic and interconnected, built with additional strength to get tough projects completed and enable further growth, the automaker says. Instead of delegating to one supplier, GM steered the project and brought sustainability-minded companies together.

Hamtramck Recycling bails the bottles collected from six GM facilities. Clean Tech Inc. washes them and converts them to flake. Unifi Manufacturing, Inc. recycles the flake into Repreve 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 Empowerment Plan seamstresses cut insulation to size and make coats. Filtration Services Group works with New Life Center to sew the air filters, which are sent to 10 GM facilities.

FSG involved the N.E.W. Life Center in Flint to make air filter panels from the fleece. The nonprofit training center employs at-risk individuals to develop their skills. GM is donating enough insulation for The Empowerment Plan’s seamstresses — formerly homeless women — to make 6,500 coats that transform into sleeping bags for those in need at no cost. Since April 2016, GM has collected about 4 million bottles. Sourcing recycled content led to energy conservation. On average, production of a pound of the recycled staple fiber saves enough energy to run a compact fluorescent light bulb for 22 days. It also provides a way to engage employees, helping them to connect their individual actions to broader social and environmental causes.

The project is in line with GM’s landfill-free commitment — now totaling 152 facilities. It also helped reduce the secondary impact of the Flint Water Crisis by collaborating with Schupan to collect community bottles and funnel them into the project.