GM tool and die plant recycles, reuses all plant wastes

RP news wires, Noria Corporation
Tags: energy management

General Motors’ Flint (Mich.) Tool and Die Plant will recycle an amount of polystyrene equal to that of 42 million coffee cups this year, an achievement that makes the plant “landfill free,” recycling or reusing all normal plant wastes.

The facility makes polystyrene patterns that are used to create cast iron dies that stamp out body parts for virtually every General Motors vehicle sold in North America. Workers at the plant construct the precision patterns from big, 12-foot rectangular blocks of polystyrene. The patterns are used to mold the dies, which then return to the plant to be machined and finished. In a typical year, the plant will recycle 180,000 pounds of polystyrene.

Flint Tool and Die joins Flint Engine South as two of General Motors’ ten plants worldwide that have achieved landfill free status. Other plants are located throughout the United States, Korea and Germany. GM’s North American facilities currently recycle nearly 88 percent of the waste they generate.

“Reducing waste is an important business goal for General Motors,” said Tony Suggs, Flint Tool and Die plant manager. “It is good for our business and the environment. The process is a total team effort, involving all our employees and union partners IAM 2484 and UAW local 659.”

The unique product Flint Tool and Die provides to General Motors also results in a unique waste stream – polystyrene. The qualities that make polystyrene nearly indestructible – estimates for its decomposition in the environment range in the hundreds of years – also make it readily reusable. It can be melted or ground and used over and over again. General Motors provides scraps to the recycler where it is sold for use in other products.

“The scrap polystyrene is not landfilled, which avoids potential environmental drawbacks,” said Julie Lenz, GM environmental engineer. “And reusing it to make new products reduces energy use and manufacturing costs, compared to making it from raw materials.”

All polystyrene scrap is returned to the supplier. From there it may be sold to other manufacturers to be melted and reprocessed into new plastic products such as decking, residential wall trim, and Adirondack chairs. Or, the polystyrene scrap may be reground for use in bean bag chairs or construction materials. One hundred percent of the plant’s returned polystyrene is reused in some way.

Another significant environmental improvement is the conversion of general plant trash into energy. The trash is incinerated, producing over 300,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, enough power to meet the annual electricity needs of more than 34 homes.

About 250 employees at Flint Tool & Die produce approximately 250 metal dies per year for General Motors. The 318,500 square foot facility is on 13.5 acres. The facility was built in 1967 and is GM’s only stand-alone die construction facility in North America.

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