"MATERIALS" is one of Toyota's four environmental sustainability focus areas in North America. Materials include everything we use, from the raw materials that become vehicles, to the office furniture and cafeteria supplies we rely on every day, to the waste we recycle or dispose. Our materials strategy supports the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050, which calls on us to support a recycling-based society. We do that by conserving natural resources, eliminating waste and supporting community recycling. Everything we do today to better manage materials builds a cleaner, healthier future.

MATERIALS TARGET

Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) had the following target for fiscal years 2017 to 2021 for Materials:

RECYCLING-BASED SOCIETY CHALLENGE:

REDUCE THE USE OF PACKAGING MATERIAL (ACHIEVED)

 

Toyota reduces packaging material by utilizing returnable shipping containers. Across North America, Toyota uses about 60,000 returnable packaging modules and racks for shipping parts between suppliers, distribution centers, plants and dealerships. Between 2017 and 20203, these returnable shipping containers replaced the use of 65.1 million pounds of cardboard boxes and 171.6 million pounds of wooden crates, and avoided $273 million in cost.

 

Additionally, TMNA is a member of Suppliers Partnership for the Environment (SP) and participates in the Materials Efficiency Work Group, which developed the Sustainable Packaging Recommendations for Automotive Manufacturing Operations." This document contains a set of practical recommendations to help automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers source sustainable packaging designs. The recommendations focus on opportunities to minimize automotive packaging waste and address barriers to recyclability in the design phase. Following the launch of these recommendations, the Materials Efficiency Work Group created a new Sustainable Packaging sub-group, co-chaired by TMNA and Magna, to further SP’s efforts to promote the design and use of sustainable packaging.

 

Beginning in fiscal year 2022, we have a new five-year target to reduce procurement of plastic packaging materials by 25 percent. Since plastic is not biodegradable, can be difficult to recycle, and is well known for causing water and ocean pollution, we set this new target to help us further reduce waste and lessen the environmental impacts of shipping parts and materials. This target moves us along the path to achieving the 2050 challenge of supporting a recycling-based society.

 

3While TMNA's action plan is based on fiscal years, we track waste and packaging metrics on a calendar year basis. This target is measured against progress made each calendar year.

CONSERVING NATURAL RESOURCES

 

We strive to conserve natural resources by increasing our use of sustainable materials. Using sustainable materials means using materials in the most productive way, with emphasis on using less as well as reducing toxic chemicals and environmental impacts across the whole life cycle.

 

An example of using less comes from the paint shop at the assembly plant in Cambridge, Ontario. Here, cleaning solvent usage had increased after the installation of new clear coat technology. Initially, the clear paint required two different solvents for cleaning out the paint robots. After testing several alternatives, a “2 in 1” solvent was found to reduce solvent usage by 70 percent, which eliminates 165,000 pounds (75,000 liters) of solvent. The new solvent also reduces emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 41 grams per square meter of painted surface area.

 

We continue to develop and commercialize technologies that enable the use of sustainable materials with reduced environmental impacts in a range of vehicle components. For example, we use bio-based plastics — plastics derived either wholly or in part from plant materials —in the seat cushions in Toyota Prius, Corolla and RAV4, and in Lexus RX 350; and we use post-industrial garment clippings made of cotton and synthetic fibers in door panel insulation, floor silencer and floor mats.

 

Additionally, we look for alternatives to rare earth metals, which are necessary components in hundreds of products across a wide range of applications, especially high-tech consumer products like electric vehicles. The mining of rare earth metals can have negative environmental and social consequences. Our parent company, Toyota Motor Corporation, has developed a magnet for use in electric vehicle motors that replaces up to 50 percent of the neodymium, a rare earth metal, with more abundant and less costly lanthanum and cerium. Toyota expects the magnets to be used in electric vehicles in the first half of the 2020s.

 

See also "Materials Target" for information on how we conserve natural resources and reduce packaging by using returnable shipping containers.

 

 

CHEMICAL MANAGEMENT

 

Chemicals are utilized every day to produce parts and materials used on and in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Proper management of these chemicals is important to reducing their environmental impacts throughout the vehicle life cycle.

 

It's important for us to understand the chemical content of the parts we receive from our suppliers. TMNA's Chemical Management Office (CMO) aims to track and visualize the development and growth of suppliers' chemical management systems, in part, through the implementation of an annual chemical management supplier questionnaire.

 

This year, TMNA further defined our chemical management expectations for suppliers through renewal and reissuance of a more robust “Green Supplier Requirements” document. These revised expectations will enhance and better visualize tracking of a supplier's chemical management performance. Some key items that will be tracked are supplier’s chemical data quality, proactive reporting, and overall chemical management performance.

 

We are also working to strengthen the IT systems used by suppliers to report chemical data to TMNA. In collaboration with our software vendor and suppliers, TMNA has developed a more efficient way for our suppliers to submit high-quality chemical data and information through a leading-edge system called E-star. These activities help us build strong, collaborative relationships with our suppliers that continuously improve our collective environmental sustainability.

ELIMINATING WASTE

 

Waste (both hazardous and non-hazardous) generated by Toyota’s North American facilities totaled 713.8 million pounds in calendar year 2020. We recycled, reused or composted 93.2 percent of all waste in 2020. Only 1.5 percent was sent to landfills for disposal (for certain waste streams, landfill disposal is required by law), and 5.3 percent was incinerated or used for fuels blending or waste-to-energy.

 

Overall, waste decreased by 4 percent from 2019 mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in our plants shutting down for eight weeks and our offices remaining mostly closed in 2020. Over the last five years, total waste generated has decreased by 13 percent, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as continued efforts to find ways to use materials more efficiently.

 

For example, at the assembly plant in Cambridge, Ontario, annual waste generation was reduced by 26,800 pounds (12,100 kilograms) by eliminating leaks and drips from purge solvent and basecoat robots, and by turning off the basecoat applicator wash.

 

Additionally, team members are always on the lookout for win-wins, where we keep materials away from landfills while simultaneously helping our communities. During the renovation of the break areas at the assembly plant in Kentucky, 1,000 chairs were diverted from landfill and donated to local organizations, including a school in Lawrenceburg, a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and a women’s rescue organization. During decommissioning of the material distribution center in Compton, California, we resold or recycled 1.1 million pounds of furniture, fixtures and equipment. ANEW recognized TMNA for this effort with a certificate of social and environmental sustainability as part of its Surplus StewardshipTM Program that matches good, useable office items to local organizations and underserved communities.

See "Waste" in Performance for more detailed waste data.

HYBRID BATTERY RECYCLING

Toyota has been selling hybrid electric vehicles in the U.S. since 2000. In 2010, Toyota established a comprehensive NiMH battery recycling program with Toyota and Lexus dealerships in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Our objective was to keep these batteries out of landfills and recycle the components to the extent feasible. We designed custom reusable containers to secure and protect the batteries from damage and leakage during shipping. We cover the cost to ship used batteries from dealerships to our recycling partner, Kinsbursky Brothers INTL (KBI), in Southern California.

 

In 2019, TMNA expanded the recycling program to include Li-ion batteries, which we began using in certain hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2012. We worked with a certified materials handler to help assure the batteries are properly inspected and packaged for shipping, and designed custom shipping containers to meet or exceed U.S. Department of Transportation requirements.

 

KBI recycles the recyclable components in NiMH and Li-ion batteries they receive from us, including the battery cells, the casing, the wiring and plastic components. Since 2010, we have recovered and recycled more than 160,000 hybrid vehicle batteries, totaling more than 10.5 million pounds.

 

We continue to enhance our battery collection process to promote proper end-of-life management. We are currently establishing a program aimed at maximizing the useful life of our batteries through repair, remanufacture or repurposing of battery cells:

 

Repair: Battery packs that meet certain criteria can be repaired by replacing individual cells as needed. This can be done at a dealership and eliminates the need to transport heavy batteries.

 

Remanufacture: Battery packs that can’t be repaired must be shipped to a third-party facility, where they are fully disassembled to test and grade the individual cells. A group of cells with like characteristics are then reassembled into a remanufactured battery to be put into vehicle service again.

 

Repurpose: Hybrid vehicles require a high level of battery performance. Cells that do not meet the strict Toyota requirements for vehicle use may still have useful life in non-automotive applications, such as stationary batteries or material-handling equipment.

 

For battery cells and other components not suitable for repair, remanufacture or repurposing, TMNA will continue our recycling practices, but with the aim of enhancing those practices. Our parent company, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), has developed advanced recycling methods to recover key materials from NiMH batteries and reuse them as raw material for new battery production. TMC is working with the recycling industry and researchers to develop similar techniques for Li-ion batteries. We are exploring how we can bring these methods to North America to facilitate battery-to-battery recycling.

SUPPORTING COMMUNITY RECYCLING

 

One of the best ways for us to help create a net positive impact on the environment is to share our expertise with others. That’s why team members participate in community events that help spread the word about the environmental and cost benefits of reducing, reusing and recycling.

 

For more than two decades, Toyota has been helping team members and communities in the U.S. and Canada recycle and properly dispose of household waste. During designated collection days at various Toyota locations, team members and residents from surrounding communities are invited to drop off electronic waste, appliances, paint and other household items that are difficult to recycle or dispose. Clothing and eyeglasses are also collected and donated to those in need. While events were cancelled during much of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state-mandated stay-at-home orders, the R&D facility in Michigan and the assembly plants in Indiana and Ontario Province resumed their events in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021. Between 1994 and 2021, we have helped our communities and team members recycle, properly dispose or donate more than 2.3 million pounds and counting. We will continue to support recycling efforts in our communities and have scheduled additional events for the fall of 2021 and beyond.