General Motors announced this morning that it has a process to convert the boom material used to soak up spewing oil in the Gulf of Mexico from the BP Oil spill disaster into plastic parts for its Chevrolet vehicles. The ongoing project is expected to create enough parts to supply the first year of production of the Chevrolet Volt hybrid vehicle that has just gone on sale.
Recycling the BP oil spill containment booms will result in the production of more than 100,000 pounds of plastic resin for Chevrolet vehicle components, eliminating an equal amount of waste that would otherwise have been incinerated or sent to landfills, GM said in a statement. While small in ameliorating the negative effects of the BP oil spill, the announcement is potentially a public relations coup for the resurgent automaker, which has recently been posting sales increases, as well as three straight profitable quarterly results, and a successful return to the public markets since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009 after a controversial U.S. government-dictated bankruptcy.
The plastic parts, which route air around the Volt’s radiator, are comprised of 25% boom material and 25% recycled tires from GM’s Milford, Michigan, Proving Ground test facility. The remaining is a mixture of recycled plastics and other polymers.
GM said it worked with several partners throughout the recovery and development processes. Heritage Environmental managed the collection of the booms along the Louisiana coast. Mobile Fluid Recovery used a large, high-speed drum that spun the booms until dry and eliminated all the absorbed oil and wastewater. Lucent Polymers used its process to then manipulate the material into the stuff necessary for plastic die-mold production. GDC used its “Enduraprene” material process to combine the resin with other plastic compounds to produce the components.
The work in the Gulf is expected to last at least two more months. GM will continue to assist suppliers in collecting booms until the need no longer exists. The automaker anticipates enough material will eventually be gathered that it can be used as components in other Chevrolet models as well.