Oil Spill Clean-up Gear Recycled As Electric Car Parts

In 2011, oil-soaked plastic boom material used to soak up oil in the Gulf of Mexico will find new life as auto parts in the Chevrolet Volt.

During the Gulf oil spill crisis, volunteers and clean-up crews deployed hundreds of miles of plastic booms in an effort to contain and remove toxic oil from the water’s surface.

Few people stopped to think about what would happen to the water-logged booms once they were no longer needed, but the folks at General Motors saw an opportunity to get creative.

GM has developed a cooperative method that will not only keep an estimated 100 miles of the oily material out of the nation’s landfills, it will also create enough plastic under-hood parts to supply the first year production of the Chevy Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle.

How it works: First, Heritage Environmental collects boom material along the Louisiana coast. Mobile Fluid Recovery steps in next, using a massive high-speed drum that spins the booms until dry and eliminates all the absorbed oil and wastewater. Lucent Polymers then uses its process to manipulate the material into the physical state necessary for plastic die-mold production. GDC Inc., used its patented EndurapreneTM material process to then combine the resin with other plastic compounds to produce the components.

Recycling the booms will result in the production of more than 100,000 pounds of plastic resin for the vehicle components, eliminating an equal amount of waste that would otherwise have been incinerated or sent to landfills.

The parts, which deflect air around the vehicle’s radiator, are comprised of 25 percent boom material and 25 percent recycled tires from GM’s Milford Proving Ground vehicle test facility. The remaining is a mixture of post-consumer recycled plastics and other polymers.

This effort is just another example of GM’s new resolve to be more transparent and environmentally-friendly in 2010 and beyond.

“This was purely a matter of helping out,” said John Bradburn, manager of GM’s waste-reduction efforts. “If sent to a landfill, these materials would have taken hundreds of years to begin to break down, and we didn’t want to see the spill further impact the environment. We knew we could identify a beneficial reuse of this material given our experience.”

The work in the Gulf is expected to last at least two more months and GM will continue to assist suppliers in collecting booms until the need no longer exists. The automaker anticipates enough material will be gathered that it can be used as components in other Chevrolet models.

Image Credit: Flickr - usfwssoutheast

48 comments

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons4 years ago

What do they do with the toxic oil that is soaked up by these booms? Could they just squeeze them out and save them and be ready for the next big spill that is bound to happen.

Robert H.
Robert C H H.5 years ago

This looks great initially, the next question is, can the parts they make with this composite material be recycled? Obviously they might be reused at the end of the cars life , however will the ones that are not then be 100% Garbage due to the mixing of all the different components, plastic, rubber ect ect. I suppose ultimately the booms would be best in a product that would be recycled or reused at the end of it's duty cycle. Not trying to be pessimistic, bur one should ultimately allways look to the next step and work towards Cradle to Cradle use of raw materials, I hope they will have a use for those cars parts when done with them, maybe they do??? Hope so and great to see the recycling!

Deborah W.
deb w.5 years ago

How very forward-thinking of GM. I admire them for this iniative. It will encourage other large corporations to rethink their strategies. Good on ya'!

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman5 years ago

Good news thanx :-a0

David N.
David N.5 years ago

Great to here!

Loo Samantha
Loo sam5 years ago

good news, way to go General Motors!!

Klaus P.
Klaus Peters5 years ago

Great way to move on GM and show you are still a force in the future after all your troubles in the past 2 years. Keep going and make it happen.

Frances Bell
Frances Bell5 years ago

woo-hoo! The auto industry is finally doing something which approaches being sustainable - but I want to know what happens to the oil and water that's "eliminated" - it doesn't just melt into thin air. Is there a plan in place to further separate this waste so it can be used?

anne b.
anne barusta5 years ago

Just about everthing can be recycled, it's just the cost, prevents recycling, as long as raw materials are cheaper.

Priscilla G.
Priscilla G.5 years ago

Recycling at its best, we need more of these ideas.