Three years after Subaru introduced America to landfill-free car manufacturing, General Motors has announced plans to turn half of their 181 factories waste-free by 2010—and they’ve made the process profitable.
The company explains that while lessening their environmental impact is a main goal, they’re now seeing realizing a high cash flow from the sale of their recycled materials. Scrap metal, cardboard, wood, plastic, and oil will be spared from the junk yards that surround 80 of General Motors’ factories, including 10 in the United States and 33 in Mexico. The company began its recycling program in 2000, but its few test projects cost the company $32 million to operate, but through streamlining and some creativity, they’ve moved the program out of the red.
Recycling scrap metal alone already generates a $1 billion annual profit and recycling other materials at some plants generated $16 million last year, and further profits are expected once the program is fully in place. While 96% of the waste will be reused in some way, the remainder of trash will be sent to waste-to-energy facilities.
In a 2007 interview, Ray Tessier, General Motors’ Global Director of Environmental Services, explained specific avenues the company took in order to decrease the program’s cost at the first eight plants to use it. Oil was cleaned by an outside source, and then purchased back at 25% the cost of new oil; the steel scraps were used in their own foundries and “used to make engine blocks, transmission casings and other parts that we use in the power train of our vehicles;” and wood pallets to be reused or recycled.
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