GM Expands Composting Program at Its Global Headquarters

Feb 19, 2018 9:45 AM ET

General Motors is taking its composting program – one of its most successful examples of circular economy – to a whole new level at its global headquarters located in the Renaissance Center (GMRENCEN) in Detroit.

What started as a compost collection program with select restaurants at the RENCEN has now expanded to include participation from all floors and occupants of the complex. Through this expansion, the automaker hopes to reduce its environmental impact and contribute to the city’s revitalization.  

GM began the program in 2014 to support the site’s landfill free status, diverting food preparation waste from various restaurants to benefit urban farming initiatives in the area. Since then, it has worked with local composting startup, Detroit Dirt, to collect food scraps and fruit and vegetable pieces from the GMRENCEN. The material is mixed with herbivore manure to create nutrient-rich compost that is then used to cultivate urban gardens throughout the city, including the automaker’s Beaubien rooftop garden.

This compost comes in full circle as produce harvested from the Beaubien garden, is donated to the Italian restaurant Andiamo Riverfront. The restaurant in turn makes donations equal to the food’s value to a local warming center serving the city’s homeless. In 2017 alone, the composting program collected more than 125,000 pounds of scraps, supporting multiple garden initiatives.

“At General Motors, we see waste as simply a resource out of place,” said John Bradburn, global waste reduction manager. “Our strategy goes beyond recycling and includes keeping those waste resources in use, creating jobs and serving our communities and the environment in the process.”

The GMRENCEN complex covers over five million square feet and houses a hotel, 23 restaurants, 36 retailers and 10 other businesses. It accommodates 12,000 office workers and 3,000 visitors daily.

Residents of the complex, including 5,700 GM employees, are encouraged to place grains, egg shells, fruit and vegetable scraps, among other food wastes, into plastic bins located on each floor.

 “We are very excited about this latest development of our composting program,” said Collette Kent, sustainability coordinator at the GMRENCEN. “Participation from all floors means that we will have a greater impact in how we put food scraps to use within our local communities. It also gives our employees a way to help us achieve our zero waste goal.”

You can read more about GM’s urban gardens efforts here.