Manufacturing and Sustainability

Auto plant achieves landfill-free status

October 17, 2014
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Auto plant achieves landfill-free status
GM’s Grand Rapids Operations plant in Wyoming, opened in 1943, makes precision-machined engine components. Courtesy General Motors

An automaker’s plant in the area is now a landfill-free operation after a waste-reduction initiative that its plant manager calls “smart business strategy.”

Long-time goal

General Motors announced yesterday that 11 more of its global facilities have been able to divert all of their waste from landfills, including its Grand Rapids Operations plant in Wyoming.

The plant, opened in 1943, makes precision-machined engine components.

“Our landfill-free movement is part of our culture of continuous improvement embraced by teams globally,” said Jim DeLuca, EVP of global manufacturing, GM. “Not only does it make our operations more efficient and help conserve vital resources, but we’re able to re-invest the money we get from recycling into future vehicles for our customers.”

GM began working on waste reduction nearly 20 years ago, eventually setting a goal of achieving 125 landfill-free facilities by 2020.

To date, the automaker has converted 122 manufacturing and non-manufacturing operations to landfill-free status, putting it ahead of schedule.

GM’s Grand Rapids Operations has partnered with numerous businesses to divert its waste through re-use, recycling and waste-to-energy conversion.


During a tour of the plant, GM representatives highlighted some of the programs that have been implemented, including an in-house oil blending and recycling program that saves GM $1.2 million a year and a recycling program for grinding wheels that allows them to be processed and reused as sandpaper and to make new grinding wheels.

“It’s about being a good corporate citizen,” said Rick Demuynck, plant manager of Grand Rapids Operations at GM. “Its also a very sound, smart business strategy. What we do that is good for the environment is also good for our business metrics. It’s really one of the rare occasions when you can be confident in the win-win.”

Worker buy in

Demuynck said buy in from all 500 of the plant’s employees is one of the most-important components of achieving a landfill-free facility.

“Everybody wants to do the right thing from an environmental standpoint,” Demuynck said. “They can see how we are doing this and why we are doing it, and it’s really easy to get the engagement.

“We have a team structure that makes it really easy from a communication standpoint. Our employees are fully engaged in every aspect of the business, whether it's safety, quality, cost and environmental. That part of it is not that difficult.”

Local grants

The General Motors Foundation also announced yesterday $20,000 in grants to community organizations in the region, saying it’s important to the company to give back to the communities where its employees live.

The grants were awarded to four organizations: Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, Greater Wyoming Community Resource Alliance, West Michigan Environmental Action Council and West Michigan Veterans Assistance Program.

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