Automaker General Motors is no stranger to recycling efforts, with 110 of its facilities boasting landfill-free status. In December 2013, the company announced the success of its most complex waste-reduction effort yet. The Renaissance Center, a six-tower office complex in Detroit, now diverts 5 million pounds of trash from landfills annually by reusing, recycling and turning its waste to energy.
The office complex includes the Western Hemisphere’s tallest all-hotel skyscraper, 27 retailers, 20 restaurants and many other businesses, and also houses GM’s global headquarters. The facility totals 5.5 million square feet. Additionally, 12,000 people work at the Renaissance Center, and the location sees some 3,000 visitors every day.
“This is a significant achievement considering all the waste from workers, shoppers, diners and hotel guests — ranging from half-eaten hamburgers to used mattresses — that will not end up in a landfill,” Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs, said in a press release. “By working together, we reduce our footprint while helping build a greener economy and a greener Detroit.”
The two-year effort to go landfill-free, which began with an assessment of the Renaissance Center’s waste, also involved the collaboration of many partners, including GM employees, local businesses, recycling companies and property managers. GM now works with a number of local recyclers to find uses for specific kinds of waste. For example, all returnable bottles and cans are given to a local nonprofit to help fund youth outreach programs.
Of the waste generated at the Renaissance Center, 49 percent is recycled (a 127 percent improvement over two years ago), and the remainder is sent to a nearby waste-to-energy facility.
Another key part of the landfill-free initiative is education. Recycling needs to be convenient, and employees and visitors need to know how to do it. So far, these efforts have proved beneficial, and GM plans to continue to find new ways to deal with its waste in the future.