When life hands you lemons, you should make…car parts!?! That’s pretty much the idea behind GM’s latest green maneuver. Not content to introduce its Chevy Volt electric-gasoline vehicle as an all-American car for all Americans while creating a bonanza of green jobs (and more green jobs) in the U.S., GM has also found a way to recycle the remains of the nation’s biggest environmental disaster into parts for more Volts. The new parts will be made with plastic resin produced out of the oil-soaked booms from BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
From the Gulf Oil Spill to the Chevy Volt
This was no easy operation for GM, which had to partner with four different companies to recycle the booms: Heritage Environmental collected the booms, Mobile Fluid Recovery dried them, Lucent Polymers transformed the material into a resin for die-mold production, and GDC Inc. produced the components. In addition to the recycled booms, the components also use recycled tires from a GM test facility, along with other post-consumer recycled plastics and other materials. The resulting parts are designed to deflect air around the Volt’s radiator.
Recycling Environmental Disasters
GM notes that the boom recycling program is just one relatively small part of its waste reduction efforts, but it is an intriguing one. As we transition out of a period of unsustainable energy production, new technologies are creating opportunities not only to recycle the aftermath of man-made disasters, but also to address imbalances related to global warming. For example, a new breakthrough in seaweed-to-biofuel production may some day lead to a cost-effective means of producing energy while remediating algae blooms and other overloads in the marine environment.
Image: Booms for Gulf oil spill by uscgd8 courtesy of U.S. Navy on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.