GM Taps Recycled Water Bottles for Engine Dampening, Air Filtration


General Motors Co. is using employees’ recycled water bottles, transforming them into noise-reducing fabric insulation that covers the Chevrolet Equinox engine, among other uses.

The bottles, now being collected from five of GM’s Michigan facilities, are also being turned into air filtration components that are used in GM facilities to protect air quality, and into insulation in coats created by the Empowerment Plan, a Detroit nonprofit that manufactures coats that transform into sleeping bags for the homeless. He says GM has donated 24,000 yards of insulation, enough to make 6,500 coats.

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

GM’s water bottles are recycled into insulation for Empowerment Plan coats that turn into sleeping bags.
Bradburn says Hamtramck Recycling bails the plastic bottles collected from GM’s headquarters at the Renaissance Center, Warren Technical Center, Orion Assembly, Flint Tool and Die, and Flint Engine plants. Dundee-based Clean Tech Inc. washes the bottles and converts them into flake, pure fragments that used as the raw material for a range of products. The resins are then processed to create fibers, which are formed into various types of fleece, serving all three applications.

Bradburn says Flint-based Rogers Foam Corp. die cuts the fleece and attaches it into the nylon cover for the 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 facilities, while the coat insulation is sent to Carhartt, a Detroit work-wear company that cuts it to size for The Empowerment Plan.