Beyond using sustainable inputs in our vehicles, there are other ways we can reduce the volume of waste we generate and the impact we have.
GM has made steady progress in reducing our operational waste intensity over the past decade. In 2020, we completed the last year of progress toward our goal to reduce waste intensity by 40% and achieve 150 landfill-free sites against a 2010 baseline.
We successfully achieved our initial landfill-free goal between 2014 and 2015 and the second stretched target in 2016. Our strategic restructuring process in 2018 made GM more agile and profitable, but reduced the number of landfill-free sites to 85 in 2020. To take advantage of new advancements in waste management, GM is launching our new Zero Waste circular economy program. This will entail diverting 90% or more of our operational waste from landfills across targeted facilities by 2025. Importantly, waste must also be diverted from use in any type of incineration, making this goal more thorough than a landfill-free target. This program is one of the most comprehensive in the automotive industry, covering solid, liquid and hazardous waste. The Zero Waste program will also enable innovation in the recycling industry, which is a critical component in achieving our diversion target. Between 2017 and 2019, GM diverted an average of 81% of our total waste from landfills or incineration. This figure will be the baseline against which we measure progress toward our 2025 goal.
As in the past, innovation, adoption of new technologies and engagement with suppliers both upstream and downstream will help us lead in this area. For example, certain wood pallets are made to particular specifications and cannot be shredded and used as mulch. Rather than sending these materials to landfills, we are working with our design team and upstream suppliers to transition to pallets that are returnable, eliminating the need for disposal after a single use.
Along the same lines, our Gravataí assembly plant in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, undertook a packaging optimization project in which they reduced and eliminated unnecessary packaging from shipments and replaced single-use packaging with returnable materials. Through these efforts, the plant will save 205 tons of wood, 85 tons of cardboard and 30 tons of plastics per year. Similarly, our Joinville manufacturing facility in Santa Catarina, Brazil, took a “containerization” approach to waste reduction. By working with suppliers, they transitioned from components that were delivered individually packaged to bulk packaging that significantly reduced cardboard and plastic waste by 233 tons per year. We’re also working with suppliers in Mexico to reduce returnable packaging. Our plants in Mexico recycle most waste, including sending metal to be re-ground into new products or to be reused within GM, and reusing plastic byproducts in pallets, bags and more.
External Engagement and Partnerships
In early 2021, GM, Ford and Stellantis formed a Sustainable Materials Working Group at the U.S. Automotive Materials Partnership LLC (USAMP), which is a subsidiary of the U.S. Council of Automotive Research LLC (USCAR). USCAR is the collaborative technology company of the three U.S. automotive OEMs. The team’s first major program is chemical recycling of automotive shredder residue (ASR), the remaining material—consisting of plastics and other organic materials such as fabric, rubber, glass and polymers—after shredding an end-of-life vehicle. In order to recycle ASR, USAMP is working with PADNOS and Eastman Chemical Company. PADNOS will demonstrate a cost-effective, energy-efficient, closed-loop process that requires minimal mechanical recycling and processing of ASR to prepare it for use as a feedstock for Eastman’s Carbon Renewal Technology (CRT) processes. This circular economy solution will result in cost-effective recovered plastic constituents that can be reformulated for automotive components.