Chevrolet Volt Spares Landfills from Gulf Oil Spill Waste

212,500 pounds of recycled oil booms provides year of air deflectors for electric car


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DETROIT – Oil-soaked booms from the Gulf of Mexico are providing more than enough recycled material to make a production year’s worth of air-deflecting baffles for the Chevrolet Volt electric car with extended range, a positive outcome of the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

“GM decided to offer assistance by collecting boom material from the Gulf coast until there was no longer a need,” said John Bradburn, GM’s manager of waste-reduction efforts. “We’re in the process of identifying other areas where the material we have left can be used – potentially in our plants – now that we have a sufficient quantity for the Volt.”

Using the recycled booms, whose oil and water was refined or used for energy, allowed GM and its supplier partners to:

  • Reuse 227 miles of the absorbent boom material 
  • Save 29,000 gallons of water and oil from the nation’s landfills
  • Eliminate 212,500 pounds of waste from being thrown out
  • Eliminate 149 tons of CO2-equivalent emissions from entering the air

The air deflectors comprise 25 percent boom material, 25 percent recycled tires from GM’s Milford Proving Ground vehicle test facility and 25 percent packaging plastic from GM’s Fort Wayne Assembly plant. The remaining 25 percent is a mixture of post-consumer recycled plastics and other polymers.  

GM’s team of partners, including Heritage Environmental, Mobile Fluid Recovery,and GDC, Inc., worked together on the process to recycle the booms into car parts.

Before GM began the project, the only options for the contaminated boom material were disposing of it in a landfill or burning it for energy. While energy conversion was preferable to waiting hundreds of years for the material to decompose, both options end the life of a material that, if recycled, could live indefinitely. 

“We applaud GM for moving beyond traditional corporate responsibility efforts and finding a way to turn a portion of the waste from one of the worst environmental challenges in our nation’s history into something valuable,” said Corey Lambrecht, president of Earth911, Inc., host of the nation’s largest recycling directory. “We need more, creative cleanup and recycling efforts like these.”

In 2010, GM facilities worldwide recycled 92 percent of the waste they generated. It uses recycled and bio-based materials such as plastic bottles, blue jeans, cardboard, carpet, tires, kenaf fibers, balsa wood and soy in its vehicles.

“We use recycled and bio-based materials whenever possible,” Bradburn said. “Fortunately, we were able to leverage what we know to aid in the Gulf cleanup efforts, produce a high-quality part for a brand-new vehicle and keep the boom material in its use phase all in a cost-neutral way.”

About General Motors General Motors (NYSE: GM, TSX: GMM), one of the world’s largest automakers, traces its roots back to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 202,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in more than 120 countries.  GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 30 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Baojun, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Daewoo, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall, and Wuling. GM’s largest national market is China, followed by the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and Italy.  GM’s OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services.  More information on the new General Motors can be found at


Oil-soaked booms from the Gulf of Mexico are providing enough recycled material to make a production year’s worth of air-deflecting baffles for the Chevrolet Volt electric car, announced Chevrolet Monday, May 23, 2011. Last December, General Motors announced it had developed a method to convert oil-soaked, plastic absorbent booms into parts for the Chevrolet Volt. The airflow management components, like the air deflectors shown here are made from recycled boom material. The ongoing project has saved an estimated 212,500 pounds of waste from being deposited in the nation's landfills. (December 2010 FILE photo by John F. Martin for Chevrolet)