General Motors is turning its employees

GM Turns Recycled Water Bottles Into Engine Insulation

"Recycling is good, but viewing waste as a valuable resource that can be plugged into your operations or products is even better," said John Bradburn, GM's global manager of waste reduction. "It's about rethinking the process and finding more sustainable ways to manufacture products and contribute to our communities."

General Motors has found a way to convert its employees' recycled water bottles into a noise-reducing fabric insulation that covers the engine in its Chevrolet Equinox vehicles. The bottles are collected from five of the automaker's Michigan facilities, and the recycled material also is used in air filtration components and insulation in coats for homeless people -- all part of GM's drive to achieve zero waste.

"Recycling is good, but viewing waste as a valuable resource that can be plugged into your operations or products is even better," said John Bradburn, GM's global manager of waste reduction. "It's about rethinking the process and finding more sustainable ways to manufacture products and contribute to our communities."

"Many of today's businesses are challenging the take-make-dispose model and seeing the benefits of a more circular economy," added Andrew Mangan, executive director of the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development. "From closed-loop recycling to helping launch material reuse networks, GM is thinking differently and getting other companies to join in."

According to GM, Hamtramck Recycling bales plastic bottles collected from GM's world headquarters, Warren Technical Center, Orion Assembly, Flint Tool and Die, and Flint Engine plants. Clean Tech Inc. washes the bottles and converts them to flake, Unifi, Inc. recycles the bottle flake into resin, Palmetto Synthetics processes the resin to create fibers, and William T. Burnett & Co. processes the fibers into fleece. Rogers Foam Corp. die-cuts the fleece and EXO-s attaches it into the nylon cover for the Chevrolet Equinox V6 engine; 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 plants, and the coat insulation is sent to Carhartt.

The company has 131 landfill-free facilities around the world and recycles the equivalent of 38 million garbage bags of byproducts annually.

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