As part of our “Zero Waste” ambition, we aim to divert 90%
of GM’s operational waste generation from landfills and
incineration, with or without energy recovery, by 2025.
environmental sustainability awards recognizing various achievements, including implementing good manufacturing practices.
2021 Zero Waste performance
- GM Zero Waste represents the percentage of waste diverted from landfill, incinerators and energy recovery compared to a three-year average (2017–2019) baseline of total operational waste generated.
Our Zero Waste program was designed to be as comprehensive as possible, incorporating in its scope all solid waste, containerized liquids and hazardous waste. With this program we are helping to drive innovation in the recycling industry, supporting all elements of circular economy.
A great example is our innovative project to reuse foundry sand. Our casting plant in Defiance, Ohio, ships their used sand to be reused in our Saginaw Metal Casting Operations (SMCO) in Michigan. The SMCO team tested multiple samples of the used sand from Defiance. In mid-2021, the first load of sand was delivered for a pilot test and the product met all the quality standards. A full reuse program was launched, enabling SMCO to avoid purchasing more than 1,120 tons of new sand. Other benefits include less mining of sand and lower dependency on natural resources, which increases resiliency in our supply chain.
Waste Reduction Across the Enterprise
Sustainability is considered everyone’s responsibility at GM. Employees across our business units are highly engaged in our Zero Waste program. For example, at our global headquarters in Detroit, the GM Company Store is our branded merchandise hub for visitors, including auto enthusiasts. In 2021, the store created innovative ways to participate through packaging and environmentally sustainable merchandise, two areas that could have an immediate impact on the store’s environmental footprint.
The store implemented environmentally friendly alternatives for all the materials used for packaging and shipping customer purchases. Recycled plastic bags replaced plastic bags; more biodegradable paper tapes replaced plastic tapes; and crinkled recycled craft paper replaced bubble wrap for wrapping fragile items such as coffee mugs. Finally, shipping boxes will contain only recycled cardboard going forward.
In sustainable merchandise, the store was proud to launch its first T-shirt featuring the new GM “everybody in” logo on a T-shirt made from 100% recycled fabric.
As in the past, innovation, adoption of new technologies and engagement with suppliers both upstream and downstream help us adapt and be a steward in this area.
External Engagement and Partnerships
Waste minimization and landfill diversion require partnerships and collaborations throughout the industry. Current partnerships include:
- The United States Automotive Materials Partnership LLC (USAMP) Chemical Recycling of Automotive Shredder Residue (ASR) Project has teamed with Eastman Chemical Company and PADNOS to demonstrate that plastics recovered from shredded EoL vehicles can be chemically recycled and used to make new automotive components. USAMP is a subsidiary of the United States Council for Automotive Research LLC, the collaborative technology company of Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Stellantis. The project will strive to minimize mechanical recycling and processing of ASR to prepare it for use as a feedstock for Eastman’s Carbon Renewal Technology processes.
- Through the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) and Suppliers Partnership for the Environment, GM leads working groups with other automotive OEMs, including the Sustainable Materials and Packaging Teams. Together, we are defining key terminology and supporting the development of key performance indicators.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) America Recycles Day pledge, for which we collaborate with the EPA and other signatories to enhance the U.S. recycling system, helps to create a resilient path for circular economy to protect the environment.
Aiming Higher in South America
Our Zero Waste target is more stringent in regions that have already met the 90% goal. For example, the target for GM South America (GMSA) is 95% diversion by 2025. As a leading region in the Zero Waste program, GMSA has achieved this high level of performance through engagement with several internal departments and local suppliers. The strategy involves an advanced environmental sustainability awareness program, reduction of waste, increase in waste sent for recycling, promotion of circular economy, containerization optimization and continuous improvement on manufacturing processes.
Corporate Sustainability Employee Engagement
In September 2021, a new team was formed to support education and engagement globally. With the goal of empowering employees to champion sustainability in their unique position at GM, the team works with cross-functional subject matter experts and supports internal and external engagement opportunities. One key initiative established in 2021 to drive engagement at GM is the Sustainability Ambassador Program (SAP).
The SAP is a diverse group of employees spanning 10 countries and 200 unique GM organizations. Employees in this program have a proven passion and have dedicated time to support GM Sustainability aspirations and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). These employees are advocates for sustainability culture advancement throughout the organization, local sustainability strategists across teams and disrupters of institutional processes. These employees use the network to grow their skill set, support sustainability projects across the company and learn about new teams and initiatives. Ambassadors also include sustainability leads from each of the 11 employee resource groups.
The Sustainability Ambassadors meet monthly for fireside Q&As with leaders across the company to learn about advancements and challenges being overcome. To date, leaders from EV battery recycling, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, Communications, Market Research and more have come to answer questions at this forum. In 2022, there will be more working groups forming through this platform to support sustainability projects across the enterprise.
Our global facilities participated in over 200 focused local outreach events supporting environmental education to nearby schools, cleaning up local green spaces like nature preserves and watersheds, and planting native species in their communities.