You may have read some of our recent reporting on General Motors' dedicated pursuit of waste reduction initiatives across its operations. A recent report from The Saginaw News details an innovation at the company's Saginaw, Mich., Metal Casting Operations that allows the facilty to divert polystyrene beads used to cast aluminum engine parts:
The Lost Foam process, used to cast aluminum blocks for 2.4 liter L850 engines, begins with tiny polystyrene beads that, until recently, were not able to be recycled.
Now, unusable beads are used in insulation panels instead of going to landfills.
Ray Ilkka, senior environmental engineer at Saginaw Metal Casting, said the plant has been looking for a way to recycle the beads since it started using them more than a decade ago.
Because the beads weren’t food-grade, they couldn’t be used for cups or plates, and more than 700 cubic yards of the beads — which individually are no bigger than a grain of salt — were sent to landfills each year.
This type of innovation is key if waste generators truly hope to eliminate waste sent to landfill. There are so many unique materials used in manufacturing, all of which require equally unique recycling solutions. Kudos to GM for pursuing its zero waste goal so doggedly.