​In Michigan, ​GM Turns Recycling Into A Force For Social Good

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - There is a powerful example of ​the ​sustainability/CSR nexus going on at GM's ​Chevrolet ​​Michigan ​facilities. Plastic water bottles are being recycled into ​​insulation ​materials used ​in coats for​ homeless people, ​noise-re​​ducing fabric insulation that covers the Chevrolet Equinox engin​e, and air filtration components​.​

The bottles are collected from five of ​Chevrolet's​ Michigan facilities ​and are part of GM's zeo waste drive. ​But in Michigan this recycling drive has acquired a CSR dimension through the Do Your Part project whereby 11 projects collaborate to give the plastic fantastic a second lease of life—and give people in need a chance to rebuild their lives.

GM has 131 landfill-free facilities around the world and recycles the equivalent of 38 million garbage bags of byproducts each year. But it wants to go further. “Recycling is good, but viewing waste as a valuable resource that can be plugged into your operations or products is even better,” John Bradburn, GM global manager of waste reduction​, says​. “It’s about rethinking the process and finding more sustainable ways to manufacture products and contribute to our communities.”

What the initiative shows is that the supply chain can become a supply web where business opportunities stem from an original project, furthering the mission and driving more social and economic impact.

In this case, the web of social love includes ​Hamtramck Recycling​, which ​bails the plastic bottles collected from GM’s world headquarters​. After that, ​Clean Tech washes the bottles and converts them to flake. ​Then ​Unifi​ r​ecycles the bottle flake into resin​ while ​Palmetto Synthetics processes the resin to create fibers​. Finally, ​William T. Burnett & Co. processes the fibers into various forms of fleece​ to serve​ all three applications.

And there's more after that. Rogers Foam die cuts the fleece and EXO-s attaches it into the nylon cover for the Chevrolet Equinox V6 engine. The part helps further dampen engine noise to deliver a quiet ride. Meanwhile, Filtration Services Group works with New Life Center, a nonprofit jobs development and training mission in Flint, to make the panels for the air filtration fleece, which is then sent to 10 GM facilities. The coat insulation is sent to Carhartt, a workwear company established in Detroit in 1889, who cuts it to size for The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit non-profit that hires previously homeless women to make sleeping bag coats for homeless people.

Several GM models have been receiving recycled parts. For instance, the Buick Verano features sound-dampening material from cardboard gleaned from various GM plants. Plastic caps and shipping aids from the automaker's Fort Wayne facility are mixed with other materials to make radiator shrouds for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. Test tires from Milford Proving Ground are shredded and used in the manufacturing of air and water baffles for a variety of GM cars.

To find out more about GM's green initiatives, go here.​​​

Image credit: GM