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‘Carmakers Try to Keep Waste Out of the Ground as Well as the Air’

'FLINT, Mich. - Mammoth bins and barrels line the edge of a General Motors factory floor, stuffed with industrial detritus like shavings of aluminum, pieces of plastic and glass and chemical sludge that has come off the machines that are used to assemble engines for three models of Chevrolet. Every bit of it, G.M. promises, has a future.

'It has been more than 12 years since this plant in Central Michigan has sent anything to a dump. The 733,000-square-foot Flint Engine facility was G.M.‘s first to achieve what is known as zero-waste to landfill - a designation now held by more than 150 of its factories and office buildings worldwide.’

That’s commendable, but not altruistic. Major “heavy industry” manufacturers must maintain ongoing programs to reduce waste to zero, and must report to the EPA their progress and programs. The programs are monitored by the EPA and violations can be costly. This all began with efforts by the feds to eliminate the horrible dumping of hazardous waste into rivers, landfills, and the air starting with the industrial revolution and right up to the creation of the EPA about 1970 after the clean Air and Waters Act.

Yes, carmakers are serious in their efforts to reduce waste to zero. But not because they’re internally motivated.

All the metals have lubricants on them and must be cleaned before they are disposed of. Once cleaned, they become good quality scrap suitable for recycling. Cardboard and wood can be burned. There is a trash burning plant in downtown Baltimore that provides steam for the downtown commercial zone.

It is commendable and it is also good business. Here in my area, there are no longer any “landfills” for almost all communities. The stuff that is not recycled is burned (cleanly due to scrubbers) in cogen plants (plants that make electricity with gas or another fuel and trash). The resulting ash is a small percentage of the trash and most of it ends up mixed into roadbed material. Chucking stuff into an open pit is outlawed for the most part and not really cost effective anyway. I’ve worked in power generation and been to most of the plants in my area, cogen gas, and coal/oil. Despite this reality of no landfills serving the communities anymore, the numbskulls at retail stored like Starbucks, and even the schools, still label their trash barrels “Land fill” even though there is no active landfill serving the area. Because you are supposed to feel bad about things. Even if they are not real. Heavy industry has come a very long way since the 1970s, but the green marketing makes it seem otherwise sometimes.

MBA’s have no conscience about anything but saving money and major corporations are overpopulated with this species. Businesses should have a conscience about everything including the complete cycle of their product (s). Too bad it took the government gorilla to kick them towards the line. I am sure the EPA is like the FAA is about aviation. What little they know about aviation is learned from the industry. Smart companies know where to spread the wealth to get around these govmint agencies.


Actually, B-school does teach about morality in business. At least mine did. I recall a discussion in one class where the instructor was emphatic about balancing morality and money. He was a businessman that taught in the evenings, BTW.

Just because morality is taught doesn’t mean everyone follows moral tenets as well as they might, or even at all. IMO, business ethics isn’t as high in the hierarchy of decision inputs in many cases, but it isn’t ignored for the most part.

OK, how many folks here have 0 waste to landfill? VERY few, I bet!

It’d be nice to know where people are when they talk about what happens where they are.

I used to live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I inspected the topo map and found that Mount Mercy is the official highest point in town; this being Iowa, that isn’t very high; I didn’t notice it when I bicycled out that way.

When they built a path that passes by the landfill, I measured it as higher than Mount Mercy. We started calling it Mount Trashmore.

European countries with more people than land don’t have landfills: they recycle everything they can (which means up to 16 categories of stuff), burn the rest, ship out the tiny remainder. When we no longer have land no one wants to pay to live or work on, we’ll do the same, but right now there’s lots of empty land we’d just as soon fill with trash.

I’d gladly pay to recycle everything, but the electorate has decided otherwise most places.

Changing World Technologies in Carthage Missouri converts everything organic (in the chemical sense, which includes plastics) into diesel. It works on sewage, paper, wood, yard waste, clothes, all plastics… It recovers all the other elements, such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus (suitable for fertilizer) to re-use. They even burn their own diesel to run the plant. I guess it doesn’t pay, otherwise everybody’d do it.

Once you remove all that stuff, all you have left is metals (all worth recycling), glass (grind up for potting soil, if nothing else), and ceramics (probably also grindable-up for potting soil).

About 80% of our waste is recycled and 20% is trash. We put both out every week, and the trash often has one or two Target bags of garbage in it. Some of the neighbors are amazed at how little trash we generate. They could do it if they sorted as well as we do, but they don’t care to.

Depends upon your experience, JT.


I felt bad about throwing the cardboard tube from a rug into a dumpster, but trying to break that thing down or cut it up was a bigger feat than I wanted to deal with, there is so much waste, shaving cream cans, who knows if you can recycle the packs say batteries come in. I usually pull of the paper parts, but no recycle markings on the plastic.

Major cleanup in kenosha for 2 abandoned chrysler sites. plus another where all the cars were stored, gasoline and oil contamination. I sure hope it is better, but Foxcon is coming to se WI

the company will be exempt from the state environmental requirements that other companies have to follow. This means Foxconn can fill in wetlands as it pleases and reroute streams or even create new ones with impunity. The business, which uses potentially polluting chemicals in its manufacturing, will not be required to submit an environmental impact statement to the state, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The 60 gallon recycling can we got from the county has a key on it that shows common items we can and cannot put into the bin. More detailed information is available on line at their web site. You might contact whoever is responsible for recycling in your area and get information from them.