Today GM announced that it plans to outfit Chevy Volts with parts recycled from 100 miles of oil booms used to clean up the Gulf Oil Spill. The used booms will be transformed into plastic parts under the hood, and GM says they can recover enough material to supply a year’s worth of production. It’s pretty impressive to see how quickly GM was able to develop a process to recycle the booms, providing an estimated 100,000 pounds of raw material.
The efforts show how the manufacturing industry is getting better at sourcing recyclable materials and closing the materials loop, bringing it one step closer to true Cradle to Cradle design. The first step is to spin the water and oil out of the booms in a high-speed drum. Then they are reconstituted so that they can be sent through an injection mold machine. A product called Enduraprene uses 25 percent boom material, 25 percent recycled tires from GM’s vehicle test facility, and a mixture of post-consumer recycled plastics and other polymers to produce plastic car parts. The products will be located in the engine compartment and not in the cabin — if you’re worried about the toxicity.
While GM claims to recycle 90% of their in-house waste, kudos for them at looking outside of their typical manufacturing process to help absorb the waste material from the tragic oil spill and let it live on in a new generation of transportation. We can only hope that post-consumer recycled materials come as a standard feature in future vehicles.