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GM sourcing components for the Chevy Volt produced from recycled oil-soaked plastic booms from BP spill

Steps in recycling the booms to auto parts. Click to enlarge.

General Motors has developed a method to convert an estimated 100 miles of the oil-laden plastic boom material used to soak up oil from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year into parts for the Chevy Volt. The booms are made out of polypropylene material, and are virtually entirely recyclable once the waste oil and water are removed.

Recycling the booms will result in the production of more than 100,000 pounds of plastic resin for the vehicle components, eliminating an equal amount of waste that would otherwise have been incinerated or sent to landfills. The ongoing project is expected to create enough plastic under-hood parts to supply the first year production of the extended-range electric vehicle.

The parts, which deflect air around the vehicle’s radiator, comprise 25% boom material and 25% recycled tires from GM’s Milford Proving Ground vehicle test facility. The remaining is a mixture of post-consumer recycled plastics and other polymers.

Creative recycling is one extension of GM’s overall strategy to reduce its environmental impact. We reuse and recycle material by-products at our 76 landfill-free facilities every day. This is a good example of using this expertise and applying it to a greater magnitude.

—Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Environment, Energy and Safety policy

Boom recycling process. GM worked with several partners throughout the recovery and development processes. Heritage Environmental managed the collection of boom material along the Louisiana coast.

Video of processing the boom material. Click to launch.

Mobile Fluid Recovery stepped in next, using large centrifuges that spun the booms until dry and removed all the absorbed oil and wastewater for treatment and subsequent disposal.

Lucent Polymers used its process to then manipulate the material into the physical state necessary for plastic die-mold production. Tier-one supplier, GDC Inc., used its patented Enduraprene material process to combine the resin with other plastic compounds to produce the components. Enduraprene is a versatile engineered TPE (Thermoplastic elastomer) produced from recycled rubber and plastics.

The work in the Gulf is expected to last at least two more months and GM will continue to assist suppliers in collecting booms until the need no longer exists. The automaker anticipates enough material will be gathered that it can be used as components in other Chevrolet models.



The GM Volt and America's largest environmental disaster may make a good commercial.

Maybe they could interchange pronouns and resurrect their friendly EV marketing promotions of the past..

Like a rock, it'e clear why GM executives must not be limited to $500,000 a year.


Too bad GM is associating the Volt with the BP oil spill in any way. The spill is a tarbaby that ends up tarnishing anything it touches.


A different take on the consequence of the spill relates to a change of the 'apparent' density of bottom water sitting atop the oil slick.
The oil affects the viscosity and so the flow rate of the circulating current.
I wouldn't like to suggest the result of the change, others could comment on that.
It seems fair to say though that it may well be substantial and it certainly isn't talked about.
Food for thought?

Recycling of tires is especially valuable as it is an enormous and growing disposal concern.

The tires are known to hold high concentrations of heavy metals - I presume mainly from carbon black.


Good PR for GM's most environmentally responsible vehicle. They buy up the oil industry's failure and put it to good use in the all-electric capable VOLT. A coup.


Chevy Cruise and Volt use many common parts (it is the same basic car).

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