GM to recycle Gulf oil booms into parts for the Chevrolet Volt
General Motors is upping the ante in the green car sweepstakes by recycling oil-soaked plastic booms deployed in the Gulf of Mexico into parts for the Chevrolet Volt.
About 100,000 pounds of boom material that had been placed along 100 miles of the Alabama and Louisiana coasts in the wake of the BP oil spill are being repurposed as radiator air deflectors for the Volt, an electric hybrid car.
GM hired a flotilla of companies to convert the hazardous waste into parts that deflect air around the Volt’s radiator. Heritage Environmental collected the booms while Mobile Fluid Recovery separated the oil and water from the boom by spinning them at high speeds in a drum. A company called Lucent Polymers prepared the plastic to be injected into die molds and GDC blended the material with other plastic compounds to produce a resin for use in the Volt.
“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,” John Bradburn, manager of GM’s waste-reduction program, said in statement. “We knew we could identify a beneficial reuse of this material given our experience.”
The automaker will collect enough polluted plastic off the Gulf coast to supply parts for the first year of the Volt’s production, the company said.
The Volt is designed to travel around 35 miles on its lithium ion battery before a gasoline-powered generator kicks in to supply electricity to the motor – hence the need for a radiator.
There is a certain irony, of course, in re-using the detritus from the United States’ worst petro-environmental disaster in a product that will continue, to some degree, to spark demand for oil.
Now recycling the Gulf’s oil-contaminated plastic for the battery-powered Nissan Leaf or Tesla Roadster would truly be the revenge of the electric car.