Thanks to the investigative skills of Karl Gottschalk (left), John Birkner (middle), Terry Thewes (right) and other team members, Toyota's plant in Indiana uses 24,000 fewer pounds of PVC during the assembly of Sienna minivans.



Globally, the use of raw materials increased at about twice the rate of population growth during the last century. For every 1 percent increase in gross domestic product, raw material use has risen by 0.4 percent, and 50-75 percent of annual resource inputs to industrial economies is returned to the environment as wastes within just one year.4

Global competition for finite resources – and the corresponding generation of waste – will continue to expand as the world’s population is projected to reach between 9.4 and 10.2 billion by 2050. This increasing consumption comes at a cost to the environment in the form of land and water contamination, habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, stressed and depleted fisheries, and desertification. Materials management is also associated with an estimated 42 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.5

To address materials issues and change the relationship between consumption and growth, we’ve developed a North American strategy through 2050. To learn about our strategy and how it relates to the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050, read our Materials Position Statement.

4 According to the Annex to the G7 Leaders’ June 8, 2015 Declaration, which established the G7 Alliance on Resource Efficiency.

12 / TMNA's Approach to Recycling-Based Society

Our MATERIALS focus area relates to Challenge 5 of Toyota’s Environmental Challenge 2050. Toyota recognizes the world must transition to a new way of thinking about material flows to avoid exploitation and depletion of natural resources and environmental pollution from unsustainable consumption patterns. We will continue to look for ways to keep materials circulating and out of landfills. In North America, we developed an approach to conquering this challenge that involves three actions:

TMNA's Approach to Recycling-Based Society
Materials Target

Between fiscal years 2017 and 2021, Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) will:

Reduce the use of packaging material (on track)

Automotive companies and their suppliers ship vehicle parts using a variety of packaging types to prevent damage and maximize warehouse space. Where feasible, Toyota uses returnable packaging modules and racks for shipping parts between suppliers, distribution centers, plants and dealerships. We spend millions of dollars each year replacing lost returnable containers. Team members are trialing radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips to keep track of returnable containers, which should minimize losses and reduce the need to build and buy new containers.

In Canada, one of our suppliers collects returnable packaging containers that become obsolete after a model change, and ships them to providers for reuse or recycling. Instead of going to a landfill, 70 percent of this packaging is refurbished and returned to our Canadian plants. Toyota’s plant in Mississippi plans to utilize this program for obsolete Corolla packaging once the new model launches.

See the Suppliers section for more information on our engagement with this stakeholder group.


Our approach to conserving natural resources focuses on using sustainable materials in vehicles and parts. Over the course of a vehicle’s life cycle, sustainable materials – those that are renewable, recyclable or are made of recycled content – have a smaller greenhouse gas footprint and generate less waste than their alternatives.

We use renewable, recycled and recyclable materials where practical. For example, Toyota uses post-industrial garment clippings made of cotton and synthetic fibers in door panel insulation, floor silencer and floor mats. We also 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. We will continue to develop and commercialize technologies that enable the use of sustainable materials in a wider range of components.


Magnets made with a rare earth metal called neodymium (Nd) are used in high-output motors found in electric vehicles. Our parent company in Japan, Toyota Motor Corporation, has developed a magnet that replaces up to 50 percent of the neodymium with more abundant and cheaper lanthanum and cerium.

The new Nd-reduced, heat-resistant magnet is expected to have a wide range of applications in motors that require relatively high output such as those required for electric vehicle drive motors and generators, electric power steering, robots and various household appliances. It will also contribute to reducing the risks of a disruption in supply and demand of rare earths and price increases.

Toyota expects the magnets to be used in electric vehicles and other applications in the first half of the 2020s.


Minimizing waste has always been part of Toyota’s DNA. We began targeting zero waste to landfill in the 1990’s. In 2003, Toyota’s plants in Southern California and West Virginia became our first North American plants to achieve zero waste to landfill. Our focus on landfill was a way of reducing risk, but also a way to encourage recycling. Today, nearly all landfilling has been eliminated and our focus has shifted to reduce and reuse.

In calendar year 2017, our North American manufacturing plants, logistics sites and offices sent only 2 percent of waste for disposal to landfills. (For certain waste streams, landfill disposal is required by law.) We recycled, reused or composted 93 percent and sent only 5 percent of waste to waste-to-energy or fuels blending facilities. Total waste in 2017 was 3 percent less than 2016, in part due to an overall decrease in production.

Examples of waste minimization projects include the following:

  • Toyota’s parts distribution center in Boston sent 9,000 pounds of damaged windshields to Shark Glass Recycling North America. Shark is the only recycler we’ve found to find a valuable use for the safety film in the windshield. Typically, the glass is separated from the film and the film is disposed. Now, both the film and the glass are recycled. Other parts distribution centers plan to send damaged windshields to Shark in the future.
  • Our production control logistics team improved the one-way skid manifest system for just-in-time manufacturing (“one-way Kanban”) by eliminating the need for more than 1 million pounds of paper per year. In the past, our suppliers would print all skid manifests, even when no parts were required for the order that was generated. These “no requirement” manifests were then thrown away. Now, the system recognizes “no requirement” orders and does not print those manifests.
  • Toyota’s assembly plant in Mexico eliminated 1,500 pounds (689 kilograms) of sealer waste. When containers of sealer were changed out, there was quite a bit of sealer remaining at the bottom of the container. When disposed, this material is considered a hazardous waste. The pump inside the container was adjusted to reach to the bottom, resulting in more sealer used and less waste.
  • Part of finalizing the consolidation of Toyota’s North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, included sunsetting more than 20 structures in Torrance, California, in 2017. Donations to nonprofits represented about 85 percent of the assets, including office furniture, computers and supplies, that didn’t make the journey to Plano. Toyota contracted with ANEW (Asset Network for Education Worldwide), a nonprofit that matches office supply donations with schools, nonprofits and public agencies in need. For 35 consecutive weeks beginning in March 2017, 80 organizations located throughout Southern California stopped by one of Toyota’s lots in Torrance and took what they needed. Thousands of surplus items totaling more than 100,000 pounds found a new home. Even the hard-copy collection of Toyota’s repair manuals was donated – they now reside in the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles.

See the Spotlight story to see how Toyota’s plant in Indiana assembles the Sienna with 24,000 fewer pounds of material.

Spotlight: Doing More with Less

To combat natural resource depletion, we must learn how to do more with less. Doing more with less is a central tenet of a recycling-based society, where materials are not wasted and little or nothing is thrown away.

How Toyota does more with less is evident at our plant in Princeton, Indiana, where 24,000 fewer pounds of material are needed to assemble Toyota Sienna minivans, thanks to the investigative skills of a group of dedicated team members.

The underbody of each Sienna is sprayed in various spots with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a commonly used plastic that protects against corrosion, prevents fumes from entering the environment, and keeps water out of seams where parts overlap or are welded together. PVC is normally applied by robots, but due to the underbody design and body carrier position, some applications must be done manually.

“A few of us started to wonder why so many excess manual applications were being performed,” explained Karl Gottschalk, specialist in Paint Engineering at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana (TMMI). “So, we put a team together, with TMMI engineers from Body Design, Materials Engineering, Paint Production, Quality Production, Quality Engineering and Paint Engineering, and team members from Production Engineering at headquarters, and we started to investigate where manual PVC spraying was called for and whether it made a difference to the performance and quality of the vehicle.”

The team examined the spray process in detail and discovered that the procedure drawing was not always clear on which areas of the underbody needed to be sprayed. The result was over spraying as a preventative measure.

“We found 23 areas on the underbody where manual spraying could either be reduced or eliminated,” said Karl. “We were very careful about checking every one of those areas to confirm quality.”

The team took Sienna minivans off the assembly line to conduct testing to ensure that less PVC – or even no PVC at all – would still maintain quality and prevent corrosion and water damage. In addition to visual and touch inspections, the team even used infrared cameras to detect water after the vehicle was exposed to simulated rain and water puddles.

“It was very important that all the different departments were involved in this project,” explained John Birkner, assistant manager in TMMI Paint Engineering. “Each member of the team had a role, and we needed all of us working together to be successful.”

Over the course of many weeks and after systematically evaluating each of the 23 areas, the team found that a Sienna needed 0.16 fewer pounds of PVC spray. That may not sound like a lot, but when you consider 150,000 Sienna minivans assembled per year, it adds up.

“We’re saving 24,000 pounds of material per year just on Sienna,” said Terry Thewes, manager in TMMI Paint Engineering. “That’s a big win for this team.”

Using less raw material supports the call for a recycling-based society found in the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050. Team members at our Indiana plant will be evaluating Toyota Highlander next to see if a similar material reduction can be found.

Toyota team members demonstrate how PVC is sprayed on the underbody of a Sienna minivan

Toyota team members demonstrate how PVC is sprayed on the underbody of a Sienna minivan. The PVC prevents corrosion and water damage. Team members were able to reduce the amount of PVC spray by 0.16 pounds per vehicle with no impact to performance or quality. The assembly plant in Indiana now uses 24,000 fewer pounds of PVC on Sienna underbodies.


The best way 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 projects large and small, near and far, to help spread the word about the environmental and cost benefits of reducing, reusing and recycling.

We start with our local communities. When we consolidated headquarters offices in 2017 in Plano, Texas, Toyota donated the Quality and Production Engineering Laboratory on the campus of our Erlanger-based North American manufacturing headquarters, along with office furniture, several pieces of equipment and office supplies. This gift will launch the Ignite Institute at Roebling Innovation Center, a STEAM (science, technology, education, arts and math)-based regional school and education center serving Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati. The vision for the center also includes a collaborative space for educators, an incubator for business, a potential national hub for STEAM teacher training and an early childhood education facility. The 183,000 square-foot building sits on 22 acres and offers open spaces, high ceilings for robotics and other equipment, and plenty of room for classrooms and project space.

Since 1994, Toyota has helped team members and surrounding communities recycle and properly dispose of household waste. During designated collection days, team members and residents from surrounding communities can drop off electronic waste, appliances, paint and other household items that are difficult to recycle or dispose. Team members also collect items such as clothing and eye glasses that can be donated to those in need. Four sites have been hosting these events for several years and together, they have invested close to $1 million to ensure more than 2 million pounds of material are recycled or properly disposed. For more information, see the full story here.

Next, we consider our dealers and suppliers. We have been supporting dealerships for many years during new construction and renovation projects, and we encourage the use of LEED®, which rewards the use of sustainable materials and recycling of construction and demolition waste. We are also a member of U.S. EPA’s Supplier Partnership for the Environment, which encourages collaborating with suppliers to reduce waste, promote reuse and maximize recycling.

Donated car

Toyota’s plants in Canada donated 12 vehicle bodies and side panels to Skills Ontario, a nonprofit building the province’s skilled trades and technologies workforce. Skills Ontario delivers in-school presentations across Ontario, hosts Canada’s largest skills competition, runs summer camps for skills development and connects students to employers.