VIDEO: General Motors surpasses 50% target for zero waste manufacture

General Motors is now recycling 92% of waste generated by all of its worldwide facilities according to its first global sustainability report released last week (January 12).

The automotive manufacturer has also surpassed a goal for half of its manufacturing operations to be zero waste to landfill by the end of 2010. To date, 78 out of 145 targeted sites have achieved this landmark.

The company is now looking to recycle, reuse or convert to energy all waste streams from its daily operations as part of a corporate strategy to embed sustainability into its business model. Currently 97% of its waste is reused or recycled while the remaining 3% goes to energy recovery.

Waste reduction will be a key focus going forward as General Motors looks to reduce total waste arisings from its facilities by 10%, and cut down by the same amount on volatile organic compound emissions from assembly painting operations.

It also wants to extend its zero waste to landfill drive to 100 manufacturing sites and 25 non-manufacturing sites over the next 10 years. Other targets include reducing energy intensity from facilities by 20% and reducing water intensity by 15%.

General Motors’ waste reduction manager John Bradburn said: “We’ve established a benchmark at all of our facilities to move everything leaving the facility, all by-products, in a better way than landfilling them. So we look at the pollution prevention hierachy and first off, try not to generate the material.”

He added that on the non-manufacturing side, 14 sites are already achieving zero waste to landfill. “I can see a day when all of our sites are landfill-free. It will be a day when sound science is applied, green chemistries are applied, process technologies are implemented and all stakeholders are working together.”

The report charts the company’s sustainability progress in four key areas – design, build, sell, and reinvest. General Motors is looking to grow its business in alignment with the needs of society – namely energy alternatives and advanced technologies to reduce dependency on petroleum, improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

General Motors’ chairman and CEO Dan Akerson said: “Sustainability feeds our bottom line and sustaining a profitable business is our ultimate responsibility. Profits enable reinvestment – in R&D to reimagine a car’s DNA; in cleaner, more fuel-efficient technologies; in plants that better conserve resources.”

The company and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 31 countries with brands such as Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Daewoo, Isuzu and Vauxhall. In total, 202,000 employees work in 158 facilities across six continents.

Maxine Perella

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