General Motors Co. in Detroit today announced an expansion of its landfill-free program. All the company’s manufacturing plants in Canada, Mexico, and South America now recycle, reuse, or convert to energy all waste from daily operations.
With the addition 27 newly certified facilities, GM has 142 manufacturing and non-manufacturing landfill-free facilities globally.
“We aspire to be a zero-waste company with all manufacturing plants achieving landfill-free status,” says 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.”
The company’s Canadian manufacturing operations are diverting all of their waste from landfills. This keeps resources in the value chain and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
In turn, small solutions such as adding waste, compost, and recycling container systems in kitchenettes and high-traffic areas are improving mixed container recycling, which has gone from 45 percent to 80 percent since 2016.
“We don’t see things as they are, but what they could be,” says John Bradburn, GM’s global waste reduction manager. “To us, waste is simply a resource out of place.”
In South America, the company uses old concrete for new walkways and clean oil-soaked cloths instead of disposing of them. The São Caetano do Sul plant in Brazil lines its garbage cans with plastic bags that come from parts shipments, keeping about 8,000 plastic bags out of landfills each year.
The 79 landfill-free manufacturing operations on average reuse, recycle, or compost about 96 percent of their waste from daily operations and convert 4 percent to energy.
GM 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. GM shares its landfill-free blueprint and mentors about 25 businesses per year on how to best manage complex waste streams.