Perseverance and creativity enabled GM’s Rochester, New York facility to become completely landfill free, making it the company’s 109th location to achieve the feat.
GM has more landfill-free facilities than any other automaker in the world, but the process at Rochester took a little more ingenuity than usual.
One Piece at a Time for General Motors
Through recycling or converting all waste into energy, GM’s Rochester facility sends absolutely zero operations waste to any landfills. They achieved this goal by focusing on one challenge at a time.
The facility started by looking at their daily waste and found ways to recycle or convert the most common items.
Early in the process, the facility relocated dumpster and recycling containers and added clearer labels, making it easier for employees to appropriately sort waste items.
The plant also communicated to employees the benefits, both financial and environmental, for the recycling program, as well as a giving a clear picture of where the material would go and how it would be processed and reused.
After a year, the plant recycled 115 tons of cardboard, over twice the amount from the previous year.
The Final Test
Eventually the facility was able to eliminate everything except an oil mixture produced by a machine that cuts metal for fuel injector and manifold components.
For this final challenge, GM turned to supplier Mobile Fluid Recovery, who helped them develop a creative solution.
A cutting machine uses oil for lubrication, eventually producing a dirty oil that holds metal shavings and filter paper. Finding a way to recycle or reuse this material proved to be the final and most challenging test to becoming landfill-free.
The solution came by centrifuge, or the process of rapidly spinning the mixture. In a specialized machine, the spinning forces the oil through a filter and into a hose, where it is eventually separated from remaining air and water, producing clean, usable oil.
The oil is then sent back into the cutting machine and starts the process all over, while the filter paper and metal shavings are converted into energy. And there you have it, no waste to send to the landfill.
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