GM to recycle used Gulf of Mexico oil booms into parts for Volt


December 21, 2010

Shredded and densified boom material, post-consumer plastic, and recycled tires are all going into the new Volt components (Photo: GM)

Shredded and densified boom material, post-consumer plastic, and recycled tires are all going into the new Volt components (Photo: GM)

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During the course of this year’s Gulf Oil Spill, a lot of media attention was paid to the oil booms used to contain and/or absorb the surface slick. While a small percentage of the sausage-shaped tubes of netting were stuffed with unusual materials such as hair, most of them contained oil-absorbent polypropylene. Now that the Deep Horizon well has been capped, the question of what to do with all that oily plastic arises. It turns out that some of it will find its way into Chevrolet Volts.

In an announcement made this Monday, GM stated that it would be recycling about 100 miles (161 km) worth of used boom material for use in its Volt extended-range electric cars. More specifically, the material will make up 25 percent of the plastic used in parts designed to deflect air around the cars’ radiators. Another 25 percent will come from recycled tires from the company’s Milford Proving Ground vehicle test facility, while the rest will be a mixture of post-consumer plastics and other polymers.

It is estimated that the recycling of the booms will divert over 100,000 pounds (45,359 kg) of plastic from landfills.

Several companies were involved in the project. The process began with Heritage Environmental, which collected the boom material from the Louisiana and Alabama coastlines. Using a giant high-speed drum, Mobile Fluid Recovery then spun the material to remove all the oil and water. The cleaned-up plastic was then treated by Lucent Polymers, to prepare it for die-mold production. Finally, GDC Inc. combined the resultant resin with other plastic compounds, and produced the finished components.

GM expects work to continue on the Gulf coast for at least two more months, until the need for assistance in the recycling of oil booms is no longer required. It is expected that enough plastic will ultimately be recovered to supply parts for other models besides the Volt.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Does this mean GM has to pay BP for the oil?


Sure... we will dredge up a few bags of tarry shit to make a 2000 kg car, that is almost always driven by one person only, so they can run them and their fat, heart diseased, cancer riddled carcasses around - dumping hundred of tons more pollution into the environment, and we can pat ourselves on the back for being ecologically responsible.

Spare me the bullshit. This corporation and it's globalised crap - from what they make too the brainwashing the advertising agencies spew on their behalf - is just a lie.

If they are so shit hot - how come they are not making good fast, light cars that weight under 100Kg and get 300K a liter?

Mr Stiffy

Mr. Stiffy, if you\'re so \'$h t, why aren\'t you inventing and marketing the latest, greatest green eco-car? Have you ever driven or ridden in an internal combustion engine vehicle? If so, then quit being a hypocrite, and become part of the solution by promoting vehicles that will ultimately burn less gas, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We have to start somewhere, and technology and American societal transportation norms won\'t take us from 24MPG to 3000MPG vehicles overnight or even in 30 years... Give it a rest, PLEASE, for all our sakes, while technology advances at its normal pace.

Doc R

Matt Rings
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