MATERIALS is one of Toyota’s four focus areas in North America. “Materials” refers to everything used to make a vehicle, whether it ends up in the final product or not. Our materials strategy addresses chemical management (minimizing use of chemicals of concern), sustainable materials (use of recycled, recyclable or renewable materials) and waste minimization. Everything we do today to better manage materials advances us toward a cleaner, healthier future.

Materials Highlights Highlights for this Section
  • Toyota Motor North America won the WasteWise Very Large Business Partner of the Year Award. WasteWise is part of EPA’s sustainable materials management program, which promotes the use and reuse of materials more productively over their entire life cycles.
  • Toyota’s North American facilities reduced, reused or recycled 96 percent of non-regulated waste during calendar year 2015.
  • Toyota’s Kentucky Parts Center developed collapsible packaging that can be reused an average of 14 times and eliminates 608,600 pounds from being landfilled.


Chemical management addresses Toyota’s use of chemicals in our products and manufacturing processes as well as the shipment of items (such as used hybrid batteries) that contain chemicals. Toyota’s engineers manage chemical content at the vehicle design stage, where we have the most influence over the composition of our products. As a result, we are able to minimize the impacts to the environment from the use of chemicals both in operations and at the end of a vehicle’s life.

Around the world there are a number of regulations and voluntary agreements concerning chemicals contained in consumer products. These regulations either restrict or prohibit the use of certain chemicals or require their use to be reported to a government agency. Toyota complies with these global regulations and voluntary agreements with the intent of reducing the potential risks from chemical use in our vehicles and in all aspects of our business.

Chemical Management Target

Implement IMDS data management system enterprise wide (achieved)

Suppliers are required to enter detailed information about the chemical composition of parts and accessories into the International Material Data System (IMDS), which Toyota uses as the primary tool for collecting this information. Through IMDS, Toyota tracks the use of chemicals on the Global Automotive Declarable Substance List (GADSL), a list developed and maintained by a global automotive stakeholder committee in which Toyota actively participates.

Use of IMDS is particularly crucial for ensuring compliance with international recyclability and chemical management laws (such as those in China, South Korea, Europe and Japan). We adopted IMDS in North America to facilitate tracking and verification of compliance with these laws for vehicles assembled here and exported to international markets. For example, in fiscal year 2016, Toyota exported Avalon, Camry and Sienna from North America to South Korea, and data collected with IMDS was used to verify compliance with South Korea’s recyclability laws.

We have collected IMDS data for all vehicles we produce in North America. Our recent experience with using IMDS in North America is helping us better understand its benefit for overall chemical management. Since July 2014, suppliers have been required to report IMDS data for all new production parts following part drawing release.

Substances of Concern


Our strategy for managing substances of concern (SOCs) initially focused on four heavy metals known to cause environmental and health effects: hexavalent chromium, mercury, lead and cadmium. In 2004, Toyota made a voluntary commitment in North America to minimize these four heavy metals found 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. After working closely with suppliers, parts and accessories in North America have not contained hexavalent chromium, mercury, lead or cadmium above levels outlined in the European Union’s Directive since 2007.


Copper in brake pads is to be reduced by 2021 to the required de minimis levels outlined in recent legislation in Washington State. The legislation was created to address concerns about copper found in runoff water. We are working with suppliers on finding a suitable alternative.

Sustainable Materials

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. Toyota uses renewable, recycled and recyclable materials where practical.

Over the last several years, Toyota has evaluated numerous materials made from renewable resources to assess their performance, appearance, safety and mass production capability. In May 2016, Toyota became the world’s first automaker to use biohydrin, a newly developed biosynthetic rubber product, in engine and drive system hoses.

Jointly developed by Toyota, Zeon Corporation and Sumitomo Riko Co., Ltd., biohydrin rubber is manufactured using plant-derived biomaterials instead of epichlorohydrin, a commonly used epoxy compound. Since plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during their lifespan, such biomaterials achieve an estimated 20 percent reduction in material life cycle carbon dioxide emissions (compared with conventional petroleum-based hydrin rubber).

Biohydrin rubber is expected to be used on all Toyota automobiles manufactured in Japan by the end of 2016 (including Prius family vehicles manufactured in Japan and sold in North America). Toyota plans to expand the use of biohydrin to other high-performance rubber components, such as brake hoses and fuel line hoses.

Toyota has been using bio-based plastics — plastics derived either wholly or in part from plant materials — in numerous parts and components for over a decade. For example, we use bio-based plastics in the seat cushions in Toyota Prius, Corolla, Matrix and RAV4, and in Lexus RX 350 and CT 200h. Going forward, Toyota will continue to develop and commercialize technologies that enable the use of materials like Ecological Plastic and biosynthetic rubber in a wider range of components.


Waste Target

Develop and test a new waste metric (achieved)

As part of Toyota’s environmental action plan for fiscal years 2014 to 2016, we set a target to develop and test a new target for waste. We started by identifying a new key performance indicator (KPI) in 2014, the 3R Rate. Toyota’s 3R Rate is defined as:

(Reduce + Reuse + Recycle) / (Total Waste)

This new KPI reflects the evolution of Toyota’s waste management metrics, which focused initially on reduction in waste to landfill, then on reduction in non-saleable waste. Toyota’s 3R Rate shifts the focus from the end of the hierarchy on landfill to the top of the hierarchy to reduce/reuse/recycle. Simply measuring waste generation would ignore end-of-life management and does not adequately account for reuse.

Toyota’s 3R Rate was 96 percent using calendar year 2015 data. (We are using calendar year data instead of fiscal year data to align with EPA’s WasteWise program.) Our 3R Rate counts all types of non-regulated waste (including scrap steel) and covers all North American assembly and unit plants as well as U.S. parts and vehicle distribution centers and sales offices.

Going forward, Toyota will roll in the remaining North American sites. Next steps include developing an integrated waste tracking system for use by all North American entities and estimating avoided waste from continuous improvement activities. Ultimately, our work on developing and testing this new KPI is preparing us for setting a 3R Rate target, which we plan to do as part of our next five-year environmental action plan.

Toyota’s 3R Rate uses the same waste hierarchy promoted by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC): Reduce > Reuse > Recycle > Recover Clean > Disposal. In this hierarchy, disposal includes landfilling as well as “dirty” forms of recovery, such as burning waste to recover energy. (Toyota currently does not have any non-regulated waste in the Recover Clean category.)

USZWBC defines a “Zero Waste Business” as one with a 90 percent or greater diversion of all waste from landfill, incineration and the environment, with an ultimate goal of 100 percent diversion. Toyota has 27 North American facilities that meet this definition, including 10 manufacturing plants.

US Zero Waste Business Council

Toyota became a founding member of USZWBC in December 2013.


WasteWise Membership

2016 WasteWise Large Business Partner of the Year

In January 2016, the U.S. EPA recognized Toyota Motor North America with a WasteWise Partner of the Year Award in the Very Large Business category. The award is based on our submission of calendar year 2014 data that covers both our U.S. plants and our sales and logistics sites. The WasteWise awards program recognizes organizations’ efforts to reduce waste, increase recycling and purchase environmentally preferable products.

This is the fifth consecutive year that a Toyota North American entity has earned a WasteWise award. 2015 was our first year of membership as a consolidated entity. Prior to 2015, our U.S. sales and logistics arm, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (TMS), was a member and was named the 2011 and 2013 WasteWise Large Business Partner of the Year. In 2010 and 2012, TMS received honorable mention awards. The WasteWise program helps organizations and businesses apply sustainable materials management practices to reduce municipal and select industrial wastes.

Examples of Reduce, Reuse & Recycle

Toyota team members focus on minimizing all kinds of waste, such as process waste, damaged parts and wooden pallets, using the practices we all know: reduce, reuse and recycle. Examples of projects implemented during fiscal year 2016 include:

  • Lowering the set point on empty drums. Team members at our assembly plant in Indiana reduced waste by more than 22,000 pounds. They noticed that a drum considered “empty” still had 20 to 40 pounds of a raw material left that was being disposed. This material is used on the interior of vehicle doors to seal them from rain and snow. To reduce the amount of material disposed, team members standardized the set point for “empty” on the drum pumps in the east and west plants. Once both plants were at the same set point, they began systematically lowering it. They were able to lower the set point by 3 inches with no impact to quality.

  • Developing reusable packaging. The Kentucky Parts Center developed a reusable master pack made of corrugated plastic that reduced the amount of wood pallets and corrugated cardboard sent to landfill by an estimated 608,600 pounds per year and saved more than $490,000. The CR90 is collapsible, can be reused an average of 14 times and increases trailer density by 57 percent.

We also partner with our suppliers, who help us find additional ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Examples of supplier partnership projects implemented last fiscal year include:

  • Recycling swarf. Toyota’s powertrain plant in West Virginia and assembly plant in Kentucky are now recycling 4.5 million pounds of swarf instead of sending this material to landfill. “Swarf” is the very fine metal produced from grinding steel. Recyclers won’t accept swarf because it’s too wet, which makes it explosive, and it’s too fine, which causes it to burn off instead of melt. Working with our recycling vendor, Green Metals, Inc. (GMI), we found a company in Austria to build us a briquetter machine that would compress the swarf into solid briquettes. Compressing the swarf eliminates the moisture and makes it a marketable material. Swarf from both plants is now sent to GMI in West Virginia, where it is fed into the machine and compressed into briquettes. GMI sells the swarf briquettes to a steel company that melts them and turns them into high-grade steel coil. Because the compressed swarf is marketable, and because of what we save on disposal costs, the payback on the briquetter is just over 1 year.
  • Purchasing recycled pallets. Toyota’s Service Parts and Accessories division purchased 900 used C3 pallets from Classic Pallets last year, which prevented an estimated 43,000 pounds of wood from being sent to landfill and saved $20,000. Wooden C3 pallets are a custom pallet made for Toyota and used when we don’t have enough metal returnable modules to support our operation. Classic Pallets offers a unique service of repairing/rebuilding pallets from other scrap pallets so that no wood goes to landfill. Even small scrap wood pieces are sent to another company, which grinds them to make particle board or other wood materials. The Ontario Parts Center in California is now working with Classic Pallets to develop an inspect/repair/return program for C3’s that meets Ontario’s pallet specs for both safety and quality.

Spotlight: Turning Trash Into Treasure

How do you turn trash that’s being sent to a landfill into something that has value? You expand your thinking about how a material can be used. Team members at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC), along with representatives from a supplier, did just that. They found a way to recycle vehicle headliner offcuts, which are the pieces cut out of the roof to make room for a sunroof, into reusable and returnable packaging for parts deliveries. This material is no longer being disposed in a landfill, and the new packaging performs better than the original material. Their efforts earned TMMC a Gold ECO Award from our parent company in 2015.

During a “Go and See” activity at Toyota Boshoku, our supplier of headliners for the RAV4, TMMC team members noticed the storage of large volumes of headliner offcuts. “Because the headliner sunroof offcut was not recyclable, it was being stored until it could be disposed of in a landfill,” explained Tim Youse from TMMC’s Production Control Packaging department. “When you consider we manufacture more than 181,000 RAV4 SUVs with a sunroof every year at our Woodstock plant, that adds up to quite a bit of offcut material.” Together, Toyota Boshoku and TMMC team members Tim Youse, Glenn Corbett, Bill Fantin and Angela Gubacsi set a target to reduce offcut waste by 90 percent.

The material used on the interior of the roof is not used anywhere else on the vehicle. However, a similar material is used in the manufacturing of flow rack packaging. A third-party lab confirmed that the headliner material met the specifications for formability, durability and longevity required for this type of packaging. “Testing showed the headliner actually performed better than the existing packaging material,” said Angela Gubacsi from TMMC’s Purchasing department. “That’s the best kind of reuse – when you can replace a material with something that performs even better.”

The headliner offcut was named R3 Board (R3 = Recover, Reuse and Recycle). Thanks to R3 Board, Toyota Boshoku eliminated all 72 metric tons of their annual offcut waste, exceeding the target to reduce it by 90 percent. “This activity also reduced our total waste to landfill by 6.4 percent,” explained Julie Cook, production control specialist at Toyota Boshoku Canada. “This was a fantastic idea and we appreciate the effort made by everyone involved to achieve these results.”

TMMC now requires the use of R3 Board to repair existing packaging whenever possible, and all suppliers are instructed to use R3 in their packaging design going forward. Dunnage suppliers can now provide all of Toyota’s North American plants with reduced packaging costs since the raw material – the headliner offcuts – is free to obtain. In fact, this groundbreaking idea can be used worldwide by any auto maker and is already being considered by the world’s largest manufacturer of headliners.

Due to the success of this project, TMMC team members are now assessing the feasibility of using vehicle floor carpet offcuts in new packaging designs.

TMMC has won a total of five ECO awards in the last four years – three Gold and two Silver awards. Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) established the Global ECO Awards in 2011 to recognize the environmental achievements of Toyota manufacturing centers around the world. Each year, North American manufacturing plants submit projects to Toyota Motor North America, which then selects four projects to represent North America and compete against projects from other regions around the world. In the end, up to eight projects from the global pool are selected by TMC to receive a Gold Award. Platinum and Silver awards are also granted. Winners of Platinum and Gold awards travel to Japan to present their projects at the Global Environmental Meeting, held annually in November.

Outreach: Recycling

A core part of our environmental strategy involves outreach. When it comes to waste minimization, this means we encourage team members to find ways to broadcast Toyota’s commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle at home and in their communities.

For over 20 years, Toyota has helped team members and surrounding communities recycle and properly dispose of household waste. During designated collection days, many of our sites collect electronic waste, appliances, paint and other household items that are difficult to recycle or dispose. At the same time, we also collect items such as clothing and eye glasses that can be donated to those in need. During events held in October 2015 and May 2016, we collected 267,818 pounds of waste and donations, equal to the weight of 20 full-size male African elephants. For more information, see the full story here.

In 2015, Toyota Technical Center (TTC) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, donated 478 used computers, monitors and related parts to Digital Inclusion, a computer refurbishment and technical training enterprise that benefits area youth and low income residents. The donation helped support the opening of Digital Inclusion’s second storefront at Washtenaw Community College, and some of these computers are now in a computer lab at a low income housing development in Ypsilanti, Michigan.