General Motors’ global headquarters has become the company’s 110th facility to go landfill-free. The GM Renaissance Center, located on the riverfront in downtown Detroit, now recycles 49% of its waste. The six-tower office complex covers 5.5 million square feet and even has its own zip code. The complex includes the Detroit Marriott — the tallest hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, as well as 11 other businesses, 20 restaurants, and 27 retailers. All of the waste generated from all six towers is now recycled, reused, or converted into energy – saving an estimated 5 million pounds of landfill trash a year. For perspective, that’s the equivalent of 200,000 full garbage bags.
The drive to reach landfill-free status at the GM Renaissance Center was the most complicated of all the company’s landfill-free sites on account of the number of different businesses involved. It required a coordinated effort from every business and every employee, as well as outside assistance. In order to reach their goal, GM enlisted the help of several local agencies, as well as Waste Management, an international authority on recycling. 49% of the Ren Cen’s waste is now recycled at various facilities in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Royal Oak. The remaining 51% is converted to energy that is used to power other downtown businesses.
Achieving landfill-free status took over two years at GM’s Global headquarters and began with dumpster diving. Identifying trash items with recycle potential such as paper, plastic, and even batteries, and then providing the Ren Cen’s businesses and employees with easy access to recycling bins, helped to simplify the transition to zero waste.
Youth outreach programs benefit from all of the returnable bottles and cans, which are donated to a Detroit non-profit organization. Paper that is recycled is used to make such things as cereal boxes and toilet paper. Excess waste which does not fall under the paper or plastic category is sent to a bulk shredder at the Hamtramck Recycling plant – a business that has prospered as a result of GM and other companies in Southeastern Michigan that have made recycling a key priority.
In just 2 years, GM has racked up 110 landfill-free facilities under its belt, with many more sure to come. As a result, the automaker is projected to save an estimated $1 billion a year, not exactly chump change. GM offers a free downloadable blueprint, “The Business Case for Zero Waste,” for all companies big or small on how to reduce waste and be more energy-efficient.