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GM achieves 100 per cent waste diversion at Oshawa facilities

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

One of Oshawa and Durham Region’s leading employers is claiming an impressive landmark in sustainability.

General Motors Canada recently announced it has reached 100 per cent “landfill-free” operations at 142 of its manufacturing  plants worldwide.

The Oshawa Assembly plant and Canadian Technical Centre Oshawa campus were the latest to join the list.

All waste at these facilities has been diverted from landfills and is now recycled, reused or converted to energy.

Doug Yates, director of environment and energy for GM Canada, says the company is heavily focused on recycling or reusing waste.

According to Yates, the company has implemented numerous initiatives to get to this point. For example, he noted an increased effort on “optimizing” materials.

“A really good example is the sheet metal we use. We try to optimize the use of a full sheet,” he explained. “You purchase it in the first place, so you want to use as much as we can.”

In the past, Yates says drums of chemicals and materials such as paint may have been disposed of before everything was used.

“Now, we try to get right down to the bottom of the container,” he says.

Yates also pointed to the redistribution of items such as office furniture throughout the company.

“We don’t want to see that in a landfill,” he says. “We’ll try to find a use for it. There’s a big emphasis on reusing materials.”

Achieving full waste diversion at the Oshawa facilities has been a long process. Yates says the company went through a lengthy verification procedure before being completely satisfied they had reached the goal.

Also, he notes the diversion rate has been around 95 per cent for quite a while beforehand.

“The plant has been working on this for some time. We don’t just all of a sudden do this.” The culture of environmental responsibility has spread throughout the entire company, he says.

“I must say all the employees right across the organization, bottom to the top, have been working really hard. Everybody understands it’s the right thing to do.”

And while he is pleased with the progress made, for Yates, now is not the time for the company to rest on its laurels.

“We are almost landfill free at all our facilities. Our other focus is to be responsible with our energy use and emissions.”

GM Canada also recently proposed to build at 6.4-megawatt co-generating plant that would use renewable landfill gas to produce electricity and recover thermal energy to power and heat it’s St. Catharines Propulsion Plant. It is estimated the co-generating plant could cut the company’s emissions in St. Catharines by up to 77 per cent.