Booming Industry: GM Recycling Oil Booms in Chevy Volt Parts

It is anything but news that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a truly devastating event. And though the well is now capped and the oil has stopped flowing, the environmental impact of the disaster will continue to be felt for many years and in many, many ways. Car-making giant GM is doing its small part in reducing the spill’s toll by recycling some of the booms used to trap oil into parts for its hybrid car, the Chevy Volt.

GM plans to use around 100,000 pounds of boom material in its innovative recycling scheme. But it is far from a solitary effort on GM’s part: a whole collection of organizations are involved in the plan. The boom material was collected by Heritage Environmental, then the oil and water were separated (via a high-speed spinning process) by Mobile Fluid Recovery. Lucent Polymers prepared the plastic before GDC, Inc. used it to produce radiator air deflectors for the Volt.

There should be enough materials available to produce radiator air deflectors for at least the first model year of Volts. There may even be enough for produce parts for other models, as well. If left to rot in landfills, the boom materials would take hundreds of years to even begin breaking down, so GM’s plan to give them new life does somewhat reduce the environmental fallout from the devastating BP spill.

The irony of using oil spill detritus to supply parts for cars which will ultimately perpetuate the use of petroleum products is not lost on GM or any of the other companies involved in the unusual plan. But when compared to using brand new, pre-consumer plastics, producing the needed parts from recycled oil booms is a smart move that might just win GM a few green credits in the hearts of environmentalists.