Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Creating a recycling-based society is one of the action guidelines in the Toyota Earth Charter. In North America, we see our efforts to accomplish this as a key to being a good neighbor in the communities where we live and work. As we gain experience from implementing initiatives in our own facilities, we seek to share these best practices by teaching others how to create their own recycling programs and how to make better raw material choices. To further encourage recycling in our society, we partner with other businesses and nonprofit organizations to find outlets for our waste, and to help them find better ways to manage their own waste. One of these partnerships—with the Jackson County Development Center in West Virginia—is described below, and provides an example of our long-term vision of making our business more sustainable.

Toyota looks for opportunities to manage resource use at all stages of the vehicle life cycle. To do so, targets were established five years ago to design vehicles using more renewable and recyclable parts and with minimal levels of substances of concern (such as heavy metals). Targets were also developed for plants, distribution centers and offices for waste generation and disposal, recycling and water consumption. In addition, targets were set for purchasing recycled content paper for use in marketing materials and offering remanufactured parts to customers. Our performance in these areas is described in this chapter.

Since 2004, our plant in West Virginia has been collecting and baling plastics to donate to the Jackson County Development Center. The center sorts and sells the plastics, using the income to provide training and employment opportunities to the disabled.

In 2008, Toyota employees visited the Jackson County Development Center to see how the plastics were sorted. Our employees learned that quite a bit of trash was mixed with the plastics. The employees at the plant took it upon themselves to learn how to better segregate waste streams to decrease the amount of trash that goes to the center. This "go and see," or genchi genbutsu, is one of the five practices of the Toyota Way: To make correct decisions, you must go to the source of an issue and observe. Determining the facts increases the likelihood of identifying problems and their root causes.

Since 2009, the Jackson County Development Center has been selling plastic donated by Toyota to PTI, Incorporated. PTI grinds, melts and forms the plastic into flying discs (similar to Frisbees®). Toyota buys the flying discs from PTI to hand out during local events. The flying discs help Toyota employees who volunteer at schools and other local events teach children about recycling and what each of us can do to help protect our world.

In recognition of Earth Day, employees from Toyota's West Virginia plant spent time with 100 students from Hometown Elementary School explaining the recycling efforts utilized at the plant and the benefits of each. They also explained the technology behind the Toyota Prius and gave each student a flying disc made from the recycled plastic from the plant.

Photo of children with flying discs.
Children visiting our facility in Buffalo, West Virginia, receive flying discs made from used packaging plastic from our operations.

The long-standing partnership between Toyota and the Jackson County Development Center is now in its eighth year. Toyota has donated just under 1.9 million pounds of plastic to the center since 2009. This is but one example of how Toyota works with local communities to share knowledge and resources for the benefit of everyone.

For years, Toyota's engineers have been incorporating chemical management into the design of vehicles in order to minimize the use of these chemicals and increase the recyclability of the vehicles. In 2004, Toyota made a voluntary commitment in North America to minimize certain substances of concern (SOCs) in parts and accessories to the de minimis levels specified in the European Union's Directive on End-of-Life Vehicles—even though vehicles were not being exported to Europe. Our SOC strategy initially focused on four heavy metals known to cause environmental and health effects: hexavalent chrome, mercury, lead and cadmium. After working closely with our suppliers over a number of years, parts and accessories in North America have not contained SOCs above levels outlined in the European Union's Directive since 2007. (Target 9.1)

To ensure parts and accessories do not contain SOCs at levels above de minimis, our parent company in Japan has been using IMDS (International Material Data System). Suppliers are required to enter data into IMDS detailing the chemical composition of parts and accessories. This data helps Toyota track the use of chemicals on the Global Automotive Declarable Substance List (GADSL), a list developed and maintained by a global automotive stakeholder committee. Use of IMDS is particularly crucial for ensuring compliance with international recyclability laws (such as those in China, Korea, Europe and Japan), since the presence of certain chemicals impedes recycling of the vehicles.

We are beginning to adopt IMDS in North America to facilitate SOC tracking and verification for vehicles assembled here that will be exported to international markets with recyclability laws. (Target 9.3) For example, Toyota is exporting the Camry and Sienna from North America to South Korea; using IMDS will ensure these vehicles meet South Korea's recyclability laws.

Our recent experience with using IMDS in North America is helping us better understand its benefit for overall materials management. The use of IMDS facilitates the effective management of SOCs beyond heavy metals. (Target 9.2) Two additional SOCs were identified in recent years: copper (found in brake pads) and decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE), a flame retardant used in textiles and acrylics.

Recent legislation in Washington and California phases out the use of copper in brake pads by 2025. We recognize the need for this legislation, and for improved water quality. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers—of which Toyota is a member—received the prestigious 2011 Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Award from the California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance (CCEEB) for its work on this legislation. This award is given to a person or organization that exemplifies the spirit of environmental and economic balance. The partnership between the Alliance and environmental groups was commended for working together to find a practical, achievable regulation that both protects water bodies and maintains high standards of vehicle safety. We are now working on finding a suitable alternative to the copper used in brake pads.

Toyota, along with other automobile manufacturers, has also been working with suppliers to develop a replacement for decaBDE. The U.S. EPA and chemical suppliers reached a voluntary agreement to phase out production of decaBDE by 2013. Toyota is working on a replacement that meets the federal motor vehicle safety standard FMVSS302 on flammability of interior materials. Toyota engineers worldwide continue to investigate and develop alternatives for these and other SOCs. (Target 9.3) We also frequently survey emerging legislation to identify where Toyota will need to develop alternatives to chemicals used in the manufacturing of vehicles.

Toyota uses ecological plastics—plastics derived either wholly or in part from plant materials—as well as other natural and recycled materials in numerous parts and components. Because our ecological plastics use a polypropylene/polylactic acid (PP/PLA) alloy derived from plant material, we are reducing reliance on petroleum-based plastics. In each model redesign and running change, we think about how to use more renewable and recyclable materials.

Over the course of the last five years, Toyota has evaluated numerous materials made from renewable resources to assess their performance, appearance, safety and mass production capability. (Target 6.1) We have introduced environmentally preferable parts in a number of our vehicles, as shown in Figure N. We are currently investigating new materials for fabrics and carpets as well as additional applications of PP/PLA-based and natural fiber-based materials in North American vehicles.

Figure N Vehicles Containing Bio-based Plastics

Across all of our North American operations, Toyota views waste as an inefficiency and makes reducing waste and increasing recycling a high priority. Toyota implements projects both big and small to eliminate waste where possible and continuously improve our performance.

Toyota has received a number of awards recognizing our waste reduction and recycling efforts:

  • Toyota's plant in Long Beach, California, was recognized in 2010 by the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce with an Environmental Leadership Award for their recycling efforts.
  • Toyota's U.S. sales and logistics division was selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery to receive the 2010 WasteWise Honorable Mention for Waste Reduction in the Workplace.
  • Six of Toyota's California facilities were also recognized in 2010 by the Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP) administered by the California Integrated Waste Management Board. This program recognizes California businesses and nonprofit organizations for their outstanding waste reduction efforts. Since 1994 Toyota facilities have won 68 of these awards, including two WRAP of the Year awards in 2003 and 2006.

Manufacturing Plants
Toyota's North American Waste Working Group meets regularly to share kaizens (continuous improvement opportunities) and ideas, review current waste regulations and impacts to our operations, discuss target setting and waste reduction, and review approved outlets for all wastes generated at our facilities. The forum this group provides fosters trust, partnership and information sharing, all of which are critical to meeting our goals.

Waste is tracked at our manufacturing facilities in two ways: the amount of nonsaleable waste we generate and the amount of waste we send to landfill. Nonsaleable waste is waste that cannot be recycled or reused and, therefore, must be thrown out, as well as materials for which Toyota must pay someone to recycle. We strive to reduce this waste at the source or find ways to reuse or recycle it. We set a target to reduce nonsaleable waste to 30 kg per vehicle by FY2011. We achieved this target in FY2007; in FY2011 it was 18.1 kg per vehicle. (Target 7.1) Our progress against this target is illustrated in Figure O.

Figure O Nonsaleable Waste per Vehicle Produced

Toyota's assembly plant in Indiana has had particular success with this target: They have reduced nonsaleable waste to 10 kg per vehicle. They accomplished this by increasing their recycling rate and by educating employees about proper waste segregation. In FY2011, they modified paint sludge hoppers to install a false bottom to allow water to drain. This kaizen reduced waste by about one pound per vehicle. They also began using a pulper in 2009 to recycle paper products from the cafeteria, and in 2010 added additional paper products such as bathroom paper towels and break room waste. The pulper shreds the paper products and mixes them with water to form a slurry. Most of the water is then removed and reused by the pulper. The pulp is sold to a paper recycling facility to make paperboard and cardboard boxes. Close to 500,000 pounds of paper have gone through the pulper in the last three years. This project reduces the plant's general trash annually by 1.2 pounds per vehicle.

Photo of man sorting paper.
Employees at our plant in Princeton, Indiana, use a pulper to shred paper dishes from the cafeteria, paper break room waste, and bathroom paper towels and mix them with water to form a paper slurry. The pulp is sold to a paper recycling facility for use in products like paperboard and cardboard boxes.

Toyota's engine plant in West Virginia makes parts such as cams and cranks. They create hundreds of thousands of gallons of coolant waste in their processes, and a few years ago, they weren't able to treat the coolant wastewater on site. This meant they were sending off wastewater in two tanker trucks per day. They installed a sequencing batch reactor (SBR) to treat the oily wastewater. This system uses bacteria to eat away at the oil in the coolant. They are now able to pretreat and discharge the water to a public treatment facility. Treatment at the publicly owned treatment works (POTW) allows the water to be safely returned to the environment along with treated wastewater from the rest of the town.

Zero Waste to Landfill
Zero waste sent to landfill is another important metric we track at Toyota plants. We set a target to achieve near-zero waste to landfill (measured annually as a 95% or greater reduction in waste to landfill, averaged across our North American plants). This target was achieved each of the last three years. (Target 7.2)

Our zero landfill metric is driven by the Toyota Production System, where the elimination of muda, or waste, in all aspects of business is a main objective. Toyota's parent company in Japan has challenged plants worldwide to send zero waste to landfill. While this has not resulted in the elimination of all waste, it has required significant focus on all three "R's": Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Our plant in Cambridge, Ontario, has achieved their landfill target for each of the past five years, and for the last two years has achieved truly zero landfill. Their focus has been on diverting waste from landfill and maximizing the number of "waste streams" that can be recycled. A waste stream is a classification of a type of waste. By categorizing the waste streams throughout the plant, they were able to better understand where and how wastes were being generated. Once categorized, they determined which streams could be recycled or reused, and developed tools (such as color-coded waste bins and signs) to improve segregation of these wastes into appropriate bins. The plant now has 45 different recycling categories that lead to a significant reduction in waste to landfill. They were the first North American plant to segregate waste in the cafeteria; elsewhere in the plant, they segregate batteries, sandpaper, oily rags and rubber gloves, to name a few.

Nonproduction Facilities
At our nonproduction facilities, we achieved our target of zero hazardous waste to landfill and made considerable progress in reducing nonhazardous waste toward zero landfill. (Target 7.3)

Toyota's design facilities continue to maintain zero landfill for hazardous and universal waste. To avoid sending nonhazardous waste to a landfill, waste from our design centers in Michigan is sent to a waste-to-energy facility. While the annual volume of nonhazardous waste—at less than 37 tons—is relatively small compared to our manufacturing plants, we still look for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

At Toyota's North American manufacturing headquarters campus in Erlanger, Kentucky, a six-month investigation into waste segregation was conducted. Each of the nearly 50 waste segregation areas was inspected to determine whether they were being used properly. Between FY2007 and FY2011, this activity, along with an increase in employee motivation to properly dispose of waste and continued training of incoming employees, led to a 61% reduction in the amount of waste generated that can't be recycled.

Beginning in 2009, the cafeteria began using compostable utensils, to-go containers, straws and cookie bags. They send over 70,000 pounds of compostable waste each year to Toyota's plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, to be composted on site. The compost generated from this process is used in grounds-keeping at the Georgetown plant as well as in a produce garden, the produce from which is donated to families in need.

Sales Offices
Toyota's U.S. sales headquarters campus set a target to recycle 75% of its waste by FY2010. While they missed the target, it was not by much—they achieved 74% as of FY2011 while diverting 100% of their waste from landfill. (Target 7.4) At the same time, our Canadian sales headquarters diverted 96% of their waste from landfill, slightly exceeding their target of 95%. (Target 7.5)

The cafeterias at our headquarters campus in southern California have made significant strides over the last five years to decrease the amount of trash generated. They recently began offering for purchase a Toyota Green Café Key Tag that allows unlimited use of reusable green eco-tainers when dining at any of the campus cafés. Instead of disposable take-out containers, these durable eco-tainers can be picked up at the café, then returned after a meal for the café to clean and reuse. Since 2007, the cafés have also switched from bleached to natural finish napkins and replaced Styrofoam® to-go containers with bagasse containers, a renewable resource made of sugarcane by-product. In addition, on-campus catering transitioned from disposable plastic utensils to reusable serving ware with SpudWare®, made from potatoes. They have also been introducing local farmers and sourcing produce locally when possible. Many of these measures have also been adopted at the Canadian sales headquarters campus in Toronto, Ontario.

Parts and Vehicle Distribution
Combined, Toyota's U.S. vehicle and parts distribution centers achieved a 93% recycle rate at the end of FY2011 (please see Figure P). To achieve this, Toyota's U.S. parts and vehicle distribution divisions set individual targets to increase recycling and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Figure P Logistics Recycling data

In 2007, the parts distribution division set a five-year target to reduce waste to landfill to 9.06 pounds per 1,000 pieces shipped by FY2011 (a 33% reduction). They achieved 6.8 pounds per 1,000 pieces shipped in FY2008, exceeding their target after only two years. In 2008, they established a new target to reduce waste to landfill by 25%, to 5.1 pounds per 1,000 pieces shipped. They achieved this target: As of the end of FY2011, they were at 4.14 pounds per 1,000 pieces shipped. (Target 7.7)

In the last five years, all parts distribution locations collectively diverted almost 82 million pounds of materials from landfill. Toyota's parts distribution facility in Cincinnati, Ohio, became the second parts distribution facility (after New York) to achieve zero waste to landfill in FY2008. The local landfill is receiving 24,000 pounds less of waste per year, and the city of Indianapolis is getting clean steam energy from incinerating our trash in a waste-to-energy facility.

Toyota's vehicle distribution division initially set a five-year target to recycle 90% of their waste. This was achieved in FY2008. The recycle rate was not telling the whole story, since they also try to reduce or reuse materials at the facilities. Except for breakroom and cafeteria waste, most of the waste generated comes from operations. Using a disposal rate based on a set production unit allows them to see if they are generating less waste while processing vehicles. So they set a new target to dispose of 0.25 pounds or less per vehicle shipped while maintaining the 90% recycle rate. They achieved this target: In FY2011, their recycling rate was 94% and their disposal rate was 0.15 pounds per vehicle processed. (Target 7.8)

Many of our facilities have picked the "low-hanging fruit" in terms of recycling and reducing waste, but we are not satisfied. Our facilities are now working on finding additional opportunities for improvement. For example, the vehicle distribution center in Princeton, Indiana, worked with the nearby manufacturing plant and found a way to recycle the two wire harnesses and the hood latch that were being disposed of with every installation on the four-cylinder Highlander.

Toyota's North American Parts Operations division uses over 45,000 reusable metal shipping containers in place of cardboard and wood pallets, up from only 30,000 just a few years ago. These returnable containers are used between selected North American parts distribution centers and vehicle distribution centers, dealers and suppliers. The returnables are also used increasingly for shipments to Canada and Puerto Rico. In FY2011, 120 suppliers were using returnable containers, and there are plans for adding additional suppliers in the coming years. Using the returnables program for shipping floor mats in FY2011 saved 467,000 pounds of wood and 299,000 pounds of corrugated cardboard. Overall, 27.2 million pounds of wood and 10.5 million pounds of cardboard were saved in FY2011.

Our U.S. sales and marketing groups instituted an environmentally preferable paper purchasing program five years ago to encourage the purchase of recycled content paper. Since 2007, they have been using fine paper with at least 10% post-consumer waste (PCW) content and office paper with at least 30% PCW content. (Target 17.2) Lexus has been able to source fine paper for brochures that meet our quality needs and contain 30% PCW—up from only 10% in 2008. The paper used for the Lexus CT brochure, for example, is composed of 30% PCW. The paper, called Lexus Pursuit 30, is manufactured with 100% renewable energy sources. The printing facility is the only one in the U.S. to emit virtually no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In addition, 90% of the paper we purchase is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as containing virgin content that has been sustainably sourced.

Our marketing groups have also cut down on brochure printing to avoid discarding unused materials. In the past, they printed as many as 6.9 million Toyota brochures and almost 3.5 million Lexus brochures; in FY2011, they printed 5.1 million Toyota and about 1.3 million Lexus brochures. Over the last five years, this has saved more than $70 million in paper and printing costs, while reducing the environmental impacts of fiber harvest, paper making and printing.

Our Canadian sales headquarters has also been managing paper use through its print-on-demand program. In 2007, they set a target to reduce paper consumption 25% per person by the end of calendar year 2010. They were on track in 2009, but in 2010 missed the target, mainly due to increased printing required by vehicle servicing activity. (Target 7.6) Overall, the Canadian sales office has saved over 2.7 million sheets of paper since 2006.

Toyota continues to support customer needs by offering a lineup of remanufactured service parts. Since remanufactured parts require fewer resources to produce than their new counterparts, offering and using them decreases our overall impact on the environment. As a result of fewer model launches per year and a decrease in market demand, we have not hit our target to launch 100 remanufactured parts applications each year (please see Figure Q). (Target 17.1) But we are still committed to introducing new applications. The Toyota Wholesale Parts Web site highlights remanufactured parts and provides information on ordering, benefits and features, new programs, technical information and available resources. For more information please visit

Figure Q Remanufactured Parts Available per Year

At Toyota, we focus on reducing water consumption in all of our North American operations, while reusing or recycling water wherever we can.

Toyota's manufacturing plants are our biggest users of water. We set a target to reduce water usage 13% to 0.98 kilogallons per vehicle from a FY2001 baseline. Despite changes to production volumes over the last few years that caused us to use more water per vehicle processed, we have achieved this target since FY2007 (please see Figure R). (Target 8.1)

Figure R Water Used per Vehicle Produced

Toyota formed the North American Water Group in 2004 to develop a strategy to better manage water use. Each manufacturing facility provides a representative to the group, where a consensus approach is used to identify general direction and set targets.

Our water management strategy over the past five years has focused on a 3Rs Analysis—Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. In the water conservation pyramid, reduce is the foundation and provides the most opportunities for improvement at the lowest cost. It is the fundamental first step in water management. Reuse is in the middle, with recycling at the top. Reuse may require only simple filtration to utilize a waste stream for makeup to another nearby process, whereas recycling is the most costly and difficult to implement of the three "R's." Our long-term strategy focuses on "renewable" water—using innovation to make recycling more viable.

We began conducting annual "kaizen water blitzes" at plants to implement the strategy. A kaizen blitz is conducted by a team of experts from the host plant, visiting plants, water treatment experts, and, in some cases, equipment suppliers. The team spends a week at a host plant studying processes, understanding usage and finding ways to make improvements. "Low hanging fruit" and obvious ideas for kaizens (continuous improvement opportunities) are generated in this blitz format. The next-generation water blitz is called a jishuken, or in-depth study, of our largest water users. We generate a water balance—the volume and quality of water coming in to a process, and the volume and quality going out—looking at water use from all angles. We study each process that uses water to look for inefficiencies and opportunities. By understanding the water on a chemistry level, we can find uses for waste streams at other nearby processes that we may have not identified in the blitz format. We understand how and why water is used and develop reduction strategies, keeping product quality in the forefront every step of the way.

Some examples of kaizens implemented during the 2011 fiscal year are described below.

  • Toyota's plant in Cambridge, Ontario, discovered two opportunities last year to save significant amounts of water. As a direct result of a water jishuken activity, the first opportunity was discovered in one of the paint shops. Water is used to flush dirt and oil off of vehicles coming from the weld shop into the paint shop. Employees added filtration systems and began reducing the amount of water used to clean the vehicles. Changes to timers on de-ionized misting sprays were also added. This kaizen resulted in savings of 13.6 million gallons (51.5 million liters) of water in FY2011.
  • The second opportunity was identified in the welding shop. Water is used to cool the robotic welding guns to prevent melting. This water must be extremely clean or the welding guns become clogged. The strainers used to clean the water get flushed periodically, using a lot of water. This water was being disposed of, representing a large waste in water and chemical agents used in the cooling tower. Instead, the plant diverted the backwash to a new second filter that cleans the wastewater stream during flushing. The clean water now goes back into the tank to be used again later in the process. Now, a much smaller amount of water is lost during the flushing process. Reusing the water saves almost 3.4 million gallons per year.
  • In our San Antonio, Texas, facility, another jishuken activity identified savings of over 50 gallons per vehicle, including reducing spray rinse-water makeup by installing additional recirculation sprays in some stages. The additional rinsing action of the new sprays reduced the overall water requirement by about 40%. In addition, hot wastewater from steam traps was rerouted to the initial deluge rinses at the front of the rinse line, improving cleaning capability as well as saving water.
  • Toyota's plant in Baja California, Mexico, has begun to recycle final effluent water by blending it into the surface water source used to make all of the plant's process water. They are currently recycling five percent of the entire effluent stream with a target of 25% by the end of 2011.

Sales and Logistics
While water consumption is not the most significant environmental impact from our sales and logistics operations, Toyota sets targets to manage water use. In 2008, the U.S. sales and logistics operation completed an evaluation of water consumption at their facilities and set a target to maintain water use at 2008 levels—despite the expansion of facilities. (Target 8.2a) Our Canadian sales and logistics facilities also have a target to reduce water consumption 10% by the end of 2010, from a 2004 baseline. They exceeded this target, reducing consumption a total of 45%. (Target 8.3)

Since 2009, Toyota's U.S. sales and logistics operation has been successful at maintaining water consumption at 2008 levels. (Target 8.2b) To achieve this, more sites began using recycled water. At the Regional Sales Office in Denver, the Regional Sales Office and Parts Distribution Center in Chicago and the North American Parts Center in Ontario, California, recycled water is used for landscape irrigation. At the U.S. sales headquarters campus in southern California, recycled water is used for landscape irrigation and toilet flushing.