Automakers Enter the Circular Economy

 GM Global Manager of Waste Reduction John Bradburn demonstrates the Chevrolet Equinox engine insulation made from used water bottles from several GM facilities. (Photo by Santa Fabio for General Motors)

GM Global Manager of Waste Reduction John Bradburn demonstrates the Chevrolet Equinox engine insulation made from used water bottles from several GM facilities. (Photo by Santa Fabio for General Motors)

Article originally appeared in Area Development

Industrial companies, including automotive firms, are among those reinventing how businesses find, use, and dispose of the resources and materials that make up global trade.

The auto industry has long been at the forefront of innovation, particularly when it comes to manufacturing processes and materials management. Back in the early 1900s, Henry Ford was famous for introducing vertical integration into manufacturing processes.

Today, with concerns mounting over the environment and high materials costs, automakers are turning toward “circular integration” as a means to not only initiate sustainability programs, but also create jobs and save costs. In fact, global professional services company Accenture concluded in its 2016 report entitled “Automotive’s Latest Model: Redefining Competitiveness through the Circular Economy” that automotive companies could realize $400 billion to $600 billion in revenue from circular business economy business models by 2030.

While automakers have historically resisted utilizing recycled parts, the practice is catching on. For several years a wide host of car manufacturers like Subaru, Volvo, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Nissan, Cadillac, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors have been running sustainability programs to find ways to be more earth-friendly. An article that appeared in Edmunds in 2015 pointed to Nissan using recycled soft drink and water bottles in seat cover fabric for its Leaf model; Mercedes, using recycled plastics in 52 components including wheel well liners, bumpers, and air and water baffles; Cadillac using recycled tires in its under-hood air and water baffles; and GM using employee recycled water bottles for noise-reducing fabric insulation for the Chevrolet Equinox V-6 engine. Read more…

Daniel Kietzer