GM Churns Gulf Oil Boom Into Chevy Volt Parts

Remember the booms that snaked across the Gulf of Mexico during the BP/Deepwater Horizon fiasco?  Besides that underwater camera, blobs of petroleum washing ashore, and BP’s frazzled CEO, the images of hundreds of miles of boom slathered the newswires during those frustrating weeks last spring.

The question of what would become of those plastic booms puzzled observers, many of whom assumed that local municipalities would have to deal with all that waste and hence, the cost.  Well, one company, which has had its share of headlines over the past couple years, has taken steps to keep those booms out of landfills.

General Motors has engaged in a project that to date collected at least 100 miles of the filthy, oil-soaked plastic booms, recycling them for one of its newest automobile models.  Working with several partners, GM has begun manufacturing parts using this material as a key component, placing them under the hoods of the new Chevy Volt.

This all started with Heritage Environmental, which collected the strands of boom material that floated along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.  Mobile Fluid Recovery handled the next step, the spinning of the booms until they were dry and free of the mucky petroleum.  Lucent Polymers processed the booms into a material that could be cast into molds.  Finally, GDC Inc. took the finished resin product and combined them with other materials, including recycled tires, to produce new components.  The end results are plastic parts that fit under the Volt’s hood—with a total sum of 100,000 pounds of recycled plastic.

GM says it plans to work with the above companies until the supply of boom in the Gulf of Mexico is completely exhausted.  Enough plastic should fit under all of the Volt’s hoods for at least the first model year’s rollout; the automobile manufacturer claims there should be enough material that can be used on other car models, too.

The decision to divert all those booms from landfills is a smart environmental, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and marketing move for GM.  The Volt has already snared several “Green” awards, including the Green Car of the Year by the Green Car Journal.  GM states that it recycles 90% of the waste that it generates; tackling one festering issue in the Gulf shows the once haughty, now humbled, automobile manufacturer shows that an old dog can learn some new tricks.  Watch the video below:

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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