Rethinking Value Chains: Creating Car Parts and Social Impact from Bottles and Tires

Pictured left to right: John Bradburn, GM; Daniel Kietzer, US BCSD; Chad Pregracke, Living Lands and Waters; and Steve Tullos, Entergy on the Living Lands and Waters barge outside of Memphis, TN.

Recycled water bottles from Flint, MI become insulation for coats for the homeless, Chevrolet Equinox V-6 engine covers, and air filters for ten GM plants. (source)

Mississippi River Tires to Become GM Car Parts

Just as GM helped collect water bottles from the Flint, Michigan community to turn them into engine covers and insulation for Empowerment Plan coats for the homeless, GM is now looking to the Mississippi River for its next project.

Chad Pregracke, founder and president of the nonprofit Living Lands and Waters, spends his days on barges cleaning up trash in rivers throughout Mississippi, Illinois, Tennessee and Ohio. GM global waste reduction manager John Bradburn, who met Chad a few years ago (and subsequently introduced Living Lands and Waters to the US BCSD) perked up when he heard about the massive amounts of tires washed ashore or at the bottom of the water. GM offered a plan to get a couple of truckloads of tires power-washed and ground, and transport them to GDC, Inc., an Indiana-based supplier that will further process them into vehicle parts.

“These tires from the Mississippi River will produce a high-quality part for our customers, all in a cost-neutral way for GM,” said Bradburn. “This is an example of how we are reaching beyond our industry to do our part and demonstrate what’s possible.


Support Living Lands and Waters

Chad Pregracke started Living Lands & Waters in 1998 as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the beautification and restoration of America’s major rivers and the education of environmental issues. From his single boat beginning, LL&W has grown to an industrial strength, internationally known organization with a fleet of barges and workboats.  LL&W engages thousands of volunteers each year in river cleanups, hands-on environmental education workshops, the Great Mississippi River Cleanup, Adopt-a- River-Mile program, Invasive Species Removal, and the MillionTrees Project. Visit

2 Million Flint Water Bottles into Fleece

General Motors is adding 2 million water bottles from Flint, Michigan residents into its Do Your Part water bottle recycling initiative. The company partnered with Schupan Recycling to collect the bottles. The plastic is washed, flaked and turned into fleece to make three products: Chevrolet Equinox V-6 engine covers, insulation for The Empowerment Plan coats for the homeless, and air filters for 10 GM plants.  

The program engages a supply web of 11 organizations and reduces landfill waste. The resulting social impact contributes to the initiative’s progress and expansion, and was recently honored for its above and beyond efforts.

“People want to do the right thing,” said John Bradburn, GM global waste reduction manager and chair of the US BCSD Executive Committee. “The Do Your Part recycling initiative is a way our employees and communities can connect their individual actions to broader social and environmental causes.”


Support The Empowerment Plan

The Empowerment Plan is a Detroit-based non-profit organization dedicated to serving the homeless community. They hire homeless women from local shelters to become full time seamstresses. These women manufacture a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag, which is then given out to homeless individuals living on the streets at no cost to them. Visit

Daniel Kietzer