American Recycler News, Inc.


GM’s Rochester, New York facility is company’s 109th to achieve landfill-free status

Perseverance has enabled a 75 year old General Motors manufacturing facility in Rochester, New York to go landfill free. The journey took four years and included seven attempts to recycle a challenging oily filter sludge generated from a machining operation.

The plant, which produces components to enable better vehicle fuel efficiency, and its nearly 1,100 employees now reuse, recycle or convert to energy all waste from daily operations. With their achievement, GM’s landfill-free facility count is at 109, more than any automaker.

GM supplier Mobile Fluid Recovery helped the 1.8 million sq.ft. facility solve its final roadblock to achieve landfill-free status: separating a mucky mixture of metal, filter paper and oil produced by a machine that cuts metal for fuel injector and manifold components.

The machine uses oil for lubrication from a central pit. Once complete, oil flows back to a section of the pit, carrying with it small pieces of metal shavings. Filters clean out the residue and metal chips, while clean oil flows back to the main pit to start the process again.

The solution was to centrifuge the remaining material – spinning it like a high-speed industrial washing machine. The velocity makes excess oil pass through a filter into a hose. The oil is filtered further to remove air and water, tested, and dumped back into the pit for reuse. The remaining dried filter paper and fine metal particles are converted into energy.

Employee participation was instrumental in recycling other waste streams such as paper, plastic and cardboard.

Earlier in the plant’s landfill-free journey, the team relocated dumpster and recycling containers to better enable convenient collection, and designed clearer labels for easier sorting. The goal was to make recycling easy with simple instructions.

To increase cardboard recycling, signage communicated the fact that GM receives $.02 per pound if recycled versus paying $.03 per pound to send it to a landfill. Employees read which local recycling center receives the material and what its next life becomes – more cardboard and liners – after processing. In just a year, the plant recycled 115 tons of cardboard, more than twice as much collected the prior year, avoiding use of 950 cu.yds. of landfill space. The plant executed similar communications for scrap paper and electronics.