Did You Know? (Part 1)

This morning's "Did You Know?" trivia focuses on Saturn and the environment. Saturn was concerned with how its cars affect the environment throughout the car's lifetime -- from design, to manufacture, to use by owners, to final disposal.

  • Saturn created a recycling program to help it dispose of painted polymer body panels and fascias. This was not only good for the environment, but it made good business sense. Regrinding and reusing plastic eliminated the cost of raw materials as well as the cost of disposal.
  • A key to recycling is the ability to separate materials and prepare them for reprocessing. For example, car seats are often made by embedding the springs into the foam padding. Saturn kept foam and springs separate, making components easy to separate for recycling at the end of the car’s life.
  • Reprocessing and recycling was designed into the manufacturing process. By the end of the 1990s, more than 35 percent of each Saturn was made from recycled materials, including recycled steel from the space frame, aluminum in the engine and wheels, and reprocessed polymers for body panels.
  • Between 1995 and 2000, Saturn recycled more than 250,000 tons of waste.
  • During the manufacturing process, the paint shop represents a car plant’s biggest environmental challenge, mainly because solvent-borne paints pose a threat to air and water quality. Consequently, Saturn’s Spring Hill plant was among the first in the U.S. auto industry to use water-based paints. Once the Wilmington assembly center was chosen to build the new L-Series cars, Saturn made a significant financial investment to upgrade the paint shop at Wilmington to a water-borne system as well.
  • In 2000 all Saturn engines met nationwide 100,000-mile hydrocarbon emissions requirements.
  • Since 1994, all Saturn air conditioning systems have used chlorofluorocarbon-free refrigerant.
  • Virtually all of Saturn’s painted and unpainted polymer scrap was reground and remolded to create new products. Some of Saturn’s scrap polymer was recycled into faux marble countertops. Other scrap was made into wheel-well liners and rocker panels.
  • In 1994, Saturn introduced a program to all of its North American retailers allowing them to return damaged bumper fascias for recycling. The program doesn’t cost much since Saturn’s transportation partner, Ryder, picks up the parts at the retailer during normal runs. This is one of the first commercial examples of closed-loop auto-parts recycling in North America.

  • In June 1999, Saturn, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Design for the Environment Program, and the University of Tennessee’s Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies entered into a partnership, which promoted cleaner production practices and pollution reduction throughout the life cycle of Saturn vehicles. The partnership focused on recyclability of supplier parts used in Saturn vehicles. This new partnership built upon the gains made by a previous and ongoing partnership, which focusd on the recyclability of vehicle parts produced by Saturn itself. Another primary benefit was that relatively small gains in environmental performance achieved at one company could be magnified greatly when applied over the 400 company Saturn supply chain.

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