Gulf Oil Spill Waste Used in Chevy Volt

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Booms used to clean up oil in the Gulf of Mexico are providing enough recycled material to make one production year’s worth of air deflectors, shown here, for the Chevy Volt. Photo: John F. Martin for Chevrolet

What happens to all the plastic absorbent booms used to soak up oil from last year’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico? Their usual fate is to end up in the landfill or be burned to produce energy.

General Motors and its partners are taking a different approach by developing a process to recycle the oil booms into new parts for its extended-range electric vehicle, the Chevy Volt. The booms will provide enough material to make the Volt’s air-deflecting baffles for one production year, Chevrolet announced Monday.

According to GM, the oil boom recycling program will reuse 227 miles of boom material and save 212,500 pounds of waste from the landfill.

To recycle the booms into new car parts, the oil-soaked booms are spun in a centrifuge to remove oil and then processed and re-molded into the air deflectors that surround the vehicle’s radiator.

The Volt’s air deflectors are made up of more than 75 percent recycled material: 25 percent comes from recycled oil booms, 25 percent from recycled tires from a GM vehicle test facility and another 25 percent from recycled packaging plastic from a GM assembly plant. The final 25 percent is a mixture of post-consumer recycled plastics and other polymers.

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