GM Achieves Zero-Waste Status at 1st US Factory

by | Nov 30, 2011

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General Motors’ Fort Wayne Assembly Plant has become its first U.S. factory to reach zero waste-to-landfill status, joining 78 other GM manufacturing facilities around the world.

Nine GM operations that supply Fort Wayne with stampings, engines, transmissions and components have also landfill-free, the company said.

At the Fort Wayne plant, where GM makes the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks, some of the biggest initiatives included process and material changes in the paint shop. This enabled the facility to recycle processed wastewater treatment sludge that it previously had to send to landfills.

The plant also cleans and reuses absorbent pads used to soak up oil and water from the plant floor, up to three times per pad. Soon, the company says, it will begin recycling this material into Silverado and Sierra air deflectors, which also contain some of the plant’s recycled packaging plastic.

In addition, cardboard packaging from the plant is recycled into Buick Verano and Lacrosse headliners, to provide acoustical padding for the passenger compartment.

Fort Wayne generated more than $2 million in recycling revenue last year, GM says. In total the company makes about $1 billion a year from selling scrap byproducts.

GM recycled 92 percent of materials from its plants last year, with more than half of the factories achieving zero-waste status. The zero-waste plants recycled or reused an average of 97 percent of waste, directing the remaining three percent to waste-to-energy projects.

The Fort Wayne plant’s other sustainability initiatives include use of methane gas from a nearby landfill, saving $1 million per year. Beginning in early December, GM will commission another boiler to run on landfill gas, increasing the amount of landfill gas used from 15 percent to 21 percent.

The plant reduced electricity use by 36 percent between 2006 and 2010 on a per-vehicle manufactured basis, GM says, and at the same time reduced volatile organic compound emissions by 18 percent through paint shop efficiencies such as batch building vehicles by paint color.

The facility converted high-bay lighting to T8 fluorescent fixtures, saving about $600,000 a year, and tracks real-time electrical use to find further cost-reduction opportunities.

Fort Wayne recently received a $275 million investment to build the next generation of full-size pickups, creating or retaining 150 jobs, GM says.

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