A massive complex like GM Components Holdings in Lockport generates lots of waste in its everyday work.
But the plant has just achieved "landfill-free" status with General Motors Co., meaning it has found a way to reuse, recycle or convert to energy all waste from its daily operations.
"It was a real top item from an environmental standpoint that we wanted to accomplish," said Pat Curtis, the plant manager.
Employees, including members of Local 686, United Auto Workers, worked diligently to hit the target, Curtis said. The plant actually achieved "landfill-free" status three months ago – ahead of schedule – but wanted to be sure the results could be sustained before an announcement was made.
The Upper Mountain Road plant is a cornerstone of automotive manufacturing in Buffalo Niagara. In the past, it has operated under the Delphi and Harrison Radiator names. GM reacquired the production plant three years ago; the site now employs about 1,500 people.
The plant makes heating and air-conditioning components and radiators for a variety of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles. Last year, the plant recycled more than 6 million pounds of aluminum, the primary material in vehicle heat exchangers.
Some other big numbers along those lines: 2.3 million pounds of other metal byproduct; 750 tons of cardboard; 91,000 gallons of oil; and 300,000 pounds of plastic.
Curtis said the key is to develop a "landfill-free" system that is readily accessible to employees. "You've got to make it easy," he said. But as employees got accustomed to the system, participation grew and became a habit.
The program is beneficial in another way, Curtis said: Recycling various byproducts has helped the site generate nearly $3.7 million in revenue so far this year.
The Lockport plant was the 103rd GM facility to go landfill-free – the GM Tonawanda Engine Plant earned the designation in 2006.