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GM uses recycled water bottles for Chevy Equinox part

Plastic flake is also being used as insulation to make coats for the homeless.


DETROIT — General Motors is turning its employees’ recycled water bottles into a new life: noise-reducing fabric insulation that covers the Chevrolet Equinox engine.

The bottles – collected from five of its Michigan facilities – are also being turned into air filtration components and insulation in coats for the homeless community.

Given its drive to zero waste, all of GM’s global facilities recycle their water bottles. However, the bottles collected at the five locations are now funneled into its “Do Your Part” project, where 11 businesses collaborate to give them a second life.

The air filtration components are used in GM facilities to protect air quality; and the insulation goes into Empowerment Plan coats that transform into sleeping bags. The automaker will donate 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,” said John Bradburn, GM global manager of waste reduction. “It’s about rethinking the process and finding more sustainable ways to manufacture products and contribute to our communities.”

Each partner engaged in this initiative brings specific capabilities. Hamtramck Recycling bails the plastic bottles collected from GM’s world headquarters at the Renaissance Center, Warren Technical Center, and Orion Assembly, Flint Tool and Die, and Flint Engine plants. Clean Tech Inc. washes the bottles and converts them to flake. Unifi, Inc. recycles the bottle flake into resin. Palmetto Synthetics processes the resin to create fibres and William T. Burnett & Co. processes the fibres into various forms of fleece, serving all three applications.

Rogers Foam Corp. die cuts the fleece and EXO-s attaches it into the nylon cover for the Chevrolet Equinox V6 engine. The part helps further dampen engine noise to deliver a quiet ride.

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.

The coat insulation is sent to Carhartt, a workwear company established in Detroit in 1889, who cuts it to size for The Empowerment Plan.

GM also is working with various organizations such as Schupan Recycling in Flint to collect additional water bottles to plug into the project.

GM uses recycled content in many of its vehicles. Cardboard from various GM plants is recycled into a sound-dampening material in the Buick Verano headliner; plastic caps and shipping aids from its Fort Wayne facility are mixed with other materials to make radiator shrouds for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra; and test tires from Milford Proving Ground are shredded and used in the manufacturing of air and water baffles for a variety of GM cars.

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