General Motors (GM) recently announced an expansion of its landfill-free program, as all the company’s manufacturing plants in Canada, Mexico and South America will now recycle, reuse or convert to energy all waste from their daily operations. With the addition of 27 newly certified facilities, General Motors has 142 manufacturing and non-manufacturing landfill-free facilities globally, which is more than any other automaker.
"We aspire to be a zero-waste company with all manufacturing plants achieving landfill-free status," said Dane Parker, GM’s vice president of sustainable workplaces. "That zero mindset is driven by our local teams and their efforts to find innovative and sustainable solutions that improve the communities where we live and work."
GM’s Canadian manufacturing operations are diverting 100 percent of waste from landfills, keeping resources in the value chain and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Small, simple solutions also are having a significant impact. At the Oshawa Assembly Plant and Canadian Technical Center (Oshawa Campus), new waste, compost and recycling container systems in kitchenettes and high-traffic areas are improving recycling efficiencies. Through onsite leadership efforts and employee participation, mixed container recycling has improved from 45 percent to 80 percent since 2016.
"We don’t see things as they are, but what they could be," said John Bradburn, GM’s global waste reduction manager. "To us, waste is simply a resource out of place."
From repurposing old concrete for use in new walkways at the company’s sites to cleaning instead of disposing of oil-soaked cloths used in the paint processes, the teams in South America are finding creative and simple solutions to reduce waste. For instance, General Motor’s São Caetano do Sul plant in Brazil lines waste cans throughout the facility with plastic bags originally used by a local supplier for parts shipment. The project avoids sending nearly 8,000 plastic bags to a landfill each year.
Global waste management efforts remain important to GM’s top and bottom lines by delivering efficiencies, generating revenue and helping with cost savings. The 79 landfill-free manufacturing operations on average reuse, recycle or compost approximately 96 percent of their waste from daily operations and convert 4 percent to energy.
A key part of the company’s strategy is to scale impact through collaboration and best-practice sharing among its global operations and external mentorship. General Motors co-championed the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Materials Marketplace, an online database for companies that matches traditional and nontraditional industrial waste streams with new product and revenue opportunities. In addition to sharing its landfill-free blueprint, the company also mentors approximately 25 businesses each year on how to best manage complex waste streams.
For more information, visit www.gm.com.