A production campus as big and as busy as ours has the potential to generate a significant amount of waste. At BMW Manufacturing, we make sure that potential is never realized. Led in large part by our associates, we’ve adopted an aggressive recycling program that forces us to think about everything from how we use paper to the Styrofoam cups that hold our morning coffee. Thanks to this employee-driven program, we are able to recycle about 94% of all waste generated; both in the office and out on the plant floor. Everything from surplus wood, plastic, and paint, to cardboard boxes, aluminum cans, and fluorescent light tubes.
Bottles and Cans
With about 7,000 people working on site, the factory goes through a good number of aluminum cans and plastic drinking bottles. The factory compresses and bales these items and sells them to recycling groups. The money received for the sale of the material is then donated to local charities.
Working together, BMW and suppliers have designed returnable shipping containers. This little innovation has allowed us to reduce the cardboard, wood and other packaging waste per vehicle. As more and more BMW suppliers sign on to participate in the program, the environmental impact is being felt far beyond our plant grounds.
In the Cafeteria
Another change has been from Styrofoam to “EnviroFoam” food containers produced locally by Dispoz-o. These containers do not use the normal HCFC blowing agent. Instead, the containers are made by using C02, which is a much more environmentally friendly manufacturing process.
Paper, Cardboard, and Plastic
About 7,000 people work on site and go through a ton of paper, plastic and cardboard each month, literally. By placing recycling bins in every conference room, throughout the break rooms, and in the cafeteria, we’re able to significantly reduce the amount that ends up in the local landfill. The material collected is then packaged into bales and sent to recycling centers. Money from the recycled materials is given to the community.
We begin with the end in mind. The very end. Every BMW we manufacture is thoughtfully designed to be dismantled after a lifetime of use and the parts recycled for use in a brand new BMW. This kind of forward thinking created BMW’s first Recycle and Dismantling Center in Landshut, Germany in 1990, long before the concept of eco-friendly production was fashionable. Since then, it has been implemented here in the U.S. where the well-worn components, fluids, and metal of old BMWs find new life.
Solid Waste Recycling
In the course of building over 1,000 customized vehicles a day, there’s bound to be a lot of waste. At BMW Manufacturing Co. sending that to the nearest landfill is not a desirable option. In fact, for all non-regulated waste, BMW’s plant in South Carolina has achieved a Zero Waste-to-Landfill status. Here are other ways we have found to recycle our solid waste:
From dashboards to cotter pins, much of what is used in the assembly process arrives in cardboard boxes. During the course of a year, millions of pounds of cardboard come into our facility. Nearly every bit is recycled to produce…what else…more cardboard. In fact, a number of BMW suppliers use the same recycled cardboard to ship their products back to the factory.
Some items are too large or fragile to be shipped in cardboard and are sent via wooden shipping containers. There is also an abundance of wooden pallets used to stack and move a variety of parts and components. All this scrap wood is sent to a local mulch factory and eventually finds a home in someone’s garden or business landscape. There is also quite a bit of large, useable timber. This is sent with care to Habitat for Humanity where it finds a very special home indeed.
Metal and Miscellaneous
Not often, but occasionally, metal components such as door panels and underbody parts do not pass muster and are scrapped. These parts are 100% recyclable. Once in a great while, an entire car is rejected. 85% of the car’s material can be recycled. Metal from the vehicle body is compressed at the factory (optimizing the amount of material per shipment) and sent to a local recycling group. It is then reprocessed and used to produce different metal products, some of which may even be used again in our plant. If a material cannot be recycled, BMW’s waste specialists look for ways to reuse the waste. Tires are sent to a cement kiln where they are used as fuel. Paint sludge is also utilized as waste energy for other production facilities. And, as is the case with all waste contractors used by the factory, these facilities are regularly audited to ensure the material is not being used in an environmentally harmful manner.