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GM Tonawanda Engine Plant Achieves Landfill-Free Status

The Tonawanda Engine Plant

GM’s Tonawanda (NY) Engine Plant, the world’s largest engine manufacturing facility, has achieved landfill-free status in its manufacturing operations by reducing waste generation, recycling and converting waste to energy.

More than 95% of the waste materials from the plant’s manufacturing operations (23,233 tons annually) are recycled and nearly 5% (or 1,060 tons annually) are converted to energy at waste-to-energy facilities.

The recycled streams from the plant. Scrap metal and swarf (the turnings from metalworking) dominate, accounting for a combined 24.5 million tons of the waste (97.7%).

Originally built in 1937, the 3.1 million square foot plant produced 1.1 million engines in 2005. GM employs approximately 2,500 people at the plant.

The plant is the second GM plant in the US, and one of a very few automotive plants in the world to reach this achievement. The GM Flint Engine South Plant in Flint, Mich., was the first GM plant to achieve zero landfill status in its manufacturing operations in March, 2005.

The Tonawanda Engine plant is a great example of how the people of General Motors are translating our corporate goal to reduce waste into meaningful progress at our plants. Consider the size of the plant. It has 2,500 people on site and produces over four thousand engines a day—yet it doesn’t send any waste from those operations to a landfill. The average American generates several pounds of waste a day that will eventually end up in a landfill.

—Elizabeth Lowery, GM vice president, Environment and Energy

Work towards achieving this goal began in 2001 as part of the plant’s ISO 14001 Environmental Management initiatives.

From an energy conservation standpoint, the 1,060 tons of plant waste used to produce energy are equivalent to the use of 502 tons of coal in a utility boiler to produce electricity. The power generated is enough to provide the annual electricity needs of more than 250 homes.

Recycling the 46,260,000 pounds of scrap metal (equivalent to the weight of 13,217 cars), reduced energy consumption by 786,074,232 kwh, according to GM’s calculations, as it takes more energy to make metal from ores than it does from scrap.

Tonawanda’s commitment to energy conservation is part of a GM global strategy and has resulted in the plant receiving the 2005 Energy Star Performer Award from General Motors. The plant reduced its energy use by more than 30% since 2000.

In North America, GM facilities have reduced non-recycled waste by more than 67% since 1997 by either eliminating the generation of waste or increasing recycling. These same North American facilities currently recycle nearly 88% of the waste they generate.

Globally, the recycling rate for GM facilities is approximately 86%. GM was one of the first organizations—and to date is the only auto manufacturer—inducted into the US EPA WasteWise Hall of Fame.

Among the engines the plant produces are:

  • 8.1-liter Big Block V-8 (larger trucks, marine and industrial applications)

  • 3.9-liter and 3.5-liter High Value V-6 (Pontiac G6, several sport vans and the Chevrolet Malibu, Monte Carlo and Impala)

  • Inline 4 and 5 (Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size pickups and the HUMMER H3 SUV)

  • V6 E85 FlexFuel (Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo)

  • 2.2-liter Ecotec engine (Chevrolet Cobalt and HHR)



Way to go GM!
The industrial pollution caused by manufacturing cars is worse than that generated by the car's usage (typically). I hope GM and others can continue to make improvments of this sort.

allen zheng

Now add solar and wind energy systems.


What about their engines?


Now GM needs to concentrate on making its vehicles recyclable. But its a good first step.


Certainly a milestone. Another would be 4&5 cylinder turbodiesel production to many models here and abroad. If sales of the 8.1 big-block ever slow, of course.

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