Car factory production lineFor the past several years, American automakers have been competing on a number of fronts to gain status as the preferred choice of eco-friendly shoppers in the United States and abroad.

While most of these efforts have involved the development of traditional hybrid, gas-electric hybrid, and fully electric vehicles, many other initiatives revolve around how to reuse recyclable waste in the construction of new cars. General Motors is leading efforts on this front, as part of its “Do Your Part” series of eco-conscious initiatives.

Perhaps the biggest eco-friendly effort by GM as part of its “Do Your Part” green initiatives is its decision to recycle water bottles and use the recycled material in their vehicles. As part of this effort, the company has announced that material produced by recycled water bottles will be used in its Chevrolet Equinox crossover. The vehicle, which is among the most popular sold by Chevy in the United States, will be getting a solid upgrade to its soundproofing material, courtesy of this initiative.

Do Your Part: How it Works, Who’s Participating

General Motors’ “Do Your Part” initiative is primarily centered on recycling materials and waste used at its own office and manufacturing facilities throughout Michigan and in other U.S. states where it bases its vehicle assembly efforts. To that end, recycled water bottles are gathered from five of its Michigan locations and from 11 business partners throughout the country. General Motors oversees the recycling process and uses the material to produce a number of key parts. To date, “Do Your Part” has helped produce air filtration components for GM’s cars and the insulating material in winter coats for the homeless throughout Michigan. Now, the company is raising the bar.

Beginning this year, the large amount of recycled plastic will be used to produce sound-deadening material for use in next year’s Chevrolet Equinox model. The crossover SUV, which has been particularly popular in an era of declining fuel prices, will be blanketed in the new insulation material. This should produce a quieter ride and, for General Motors, a more affordable production and assembly process for the entry-level SUV.

Beyond the Equinox: A History of Recycled Materials in Vehicle Assembly

While the “Do Your Part” initiative to utilize recycled water bottle materials as sound deadening material for the Equinox is innovative in its own right, this isn’t the first time that General Motors has reused recyclable materials in cars that roll off its assembly line. In fact, a pilot project actually took place within the company’s Buick luxury brand.

A few years ago, GM began making plans to reuse recycled materials across its product lineup, but it wasn’t exactly sure which vehicles or materials to start with. The pilot project, which eventually led to broader efforts to reuse plastic materials, actually started with cardboard. GM produces a massive amount of waste in the form of cardboard, and company executives decided to create a process that would turn recycled cardboard into insulating material for its vehicles. After a period of development and testing, the cardboard-sourced insulation was used in the headliner of GM’s Buick Verano.

The Verano represented a good first effort, but hardly the only one. In addition to the luxury model’s utilization of recycled materials, GM began developing radiator shrouds sourced from recycled bottle caps and shipping materials. These parts were eventually installed in the company’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty trucks.

More than Eco-Friendly: A Financial Boon for GM

It’s great that General Motors has settled on more eco-friendly ways to create critical materials for its most popular vehicles, but that’s not the only benefit gained by recycling materials like bottle caps, shipping materials, cardboard, and water bottles. The company also saves a significant amount of money on landfill and disposal service, some manufacturing costs, and the overhead associated with sourcing non-recycled materials from third-party vendors.

When it comes to being a greener, more eco-conscious automaker, General Motors reaps benefits from several areas. Whether it’s the cost of its parts, the innovation associated with its most popular car, SUVs, and tracks, or simply the public relations boost that it gains from going green, it’s easy to see why GM made the choice to reuse its own waste and turn it into high-quality car parts.