General Motors’ Rayong engine plant in Thailand and Cheongna proving ground in Korea are the automaker’s latest facilities to become landfill-free — recycling, reusing, or converting to energy all of their daily waste. The addition of the two sites bring the automaker’s landfill-free facilities count to 33 across Asia.
“Regardless of where our teams are building cars for our customers around the world, we all share a commitment to the environment,” said Tim Lee, GM vice president Global Manufacturing and president of International Operations. “We work with all of our plants to ensure they have a roadmap to get to landfill-free, which is important considering our commitment of 125 landfill-free facilities by 2020.”
About half of GM’s operations in Asia are landfill-free, including 17 in Korea, 10 in China, four in Thailand, and two in India. In North America, General Motors has 45 landfill-free facilities and 22 in Europe. The automaker encourages facility managers to discuss challenges and generate ideas to help cut waste even further. The efforts, according to the automaker, help it balance its landfill-free progress around the globe.
For instance, a whopping 70 percent of waste at GM manufacturing plants in Asia stems from packaging materials such as wood and cardboard. So the Rayong plant in Thailand and the Talegaon plant in India switched out wood pallets for reusable, recycled-content plastic containers that weigh and cost less. In doing so, the two facilities reduced wood pallet waste by a combined 146 tons in 2012, a move that has intrigued GM’s North American to research the use of these plastic containers in their own activities.
“Wood pallets oftentimes aren’t built to be reused after one overseas shipment,” said GM manager of waste-reduction efforts John Bradburn. “Our most common recycling method is to grind them for mulch, and our South Africa plant is even taking them apart to make furniture. But our teams in Asia employed a more sustainable solution. By using plastic, they cut weight by more than half and we can continue using them after the initial load.”
Another example involves waste collection and separation systems. Employees at GM’s Changwon operations in Korea implemented new recycling containers and signage that helped eliminate 35 tons of mixed waste. Meanwhile, waste-reduction best practices range from high-tech processes to minimize sludge from wastewater treatment, painting or grinding, to locally sourcing and sanitizing gloves for reuse. The latter reduced waste at the Talegaon plant by 10 tons in one year alone. Meanwhile, the Cheongna proving ground in Incheon, Korea is recycling materials required for vehicle development and research, including batteries, plastic, chassis components, packaging and chemicals.
GM’s environmentally-friendly efforts have resulted in the company recycling and reusing more waste in its manufacturing facilities than any other automaker. In addition, no other automaker has as many sites contributing zero waste to landfills, with GM’s landfill-free manufacturing footprint spanning assembly, powertrain, casting and stamping plants; the efforts also include non-manufacturing facilities such as office buildings, warehouses and distribution centers. Globally, GM has 106 landfill-free facilities.
To help businesses of all sizes reduce waste and create efficiencies, GM has published a downloadable blueprint called The Business Case for Zero Waste that can be downloaded here.