Watch how Toyota (with a little help from our friends) recycled 461 TONS of construction waste.

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“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 conserving natural resources, eliminating waste disposal and sharing our know-how with others. Everything we do today to better manage materials builds a cleaner, healthier future.


Do you ever think about what it takes to make the things you buy and use? Where do the materials come from? What happens during the manufacturing process? What happens to the waste?

At Toyota, we think about these questions as we design, manufacture and sell vehicles across North America. We devote significant time and energy to sustainable materials management because the reality is staggering: Globally, the use of raw materials increased at about twice the rate of population growth during the last century, and more than half of the annual resource inputs to industrial economies is returned to the environment as waste within just one year.

The global demand for resources – and the corresponding generation of waste – will continue to expand as the world’s population is projected to reach nearly 9.8 billion by 2050. This increasing consumption comes at a cost to humans and the environment in the form of pollution, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss.

This is a problem that Toyota cannot address in isolation. Ensuring responsible consumption and production patterns is a shared challenge that requires a shared response. By finding more sustainable ways to manufacture, use and manage materials, we can help build a more sustainable future for society, business and the planet.


Our MATERIALS focus area relates to Challenge 5 of Toyota’s Environmental Challenge 2050. Challenge 5 directs us to help establish a recycling-based society, one where sustainable materials are used and waste becomes a thing of the past. 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:

  1. Conserving natural resources by increasing our use of sustainable materials, namely those that are renewable, recycled or recyclable, and extending the life of vehicle parts such as batteries. These practices reduce the environmental footprint of our vehicles and help prevent habitat destruction, biodiversity loss and pollution.
  2. Eliminating waste disposal. To minimize the negative impacts our activities can have on the environment, we will continue our focus on the 3R’s: Reducing waste at the source, Reusing and Recycling. By using less and increasing reuse and recycling, we will keep materials circulating, thereby helping to alleviate the demand for natural resources and keeping waste from being disposed in a landfill or by incineration.
  3. Sharing our know-how and engaging in outreach with stakeholders to scale up progress to the point of creating positive change. We will support efforts that help others reduce more waste than the total amount we generate. Key to our engagement is educating local communities about recycling and the importance of proper waste management practices, and assisting suppliers and dealers with enhancing their sustainable materials programs.

To advance us on this journey, we set a fiscal year 2021 environmental action plan target to reduce the amount of packaging material used by 5 percent from a FY2016 baseline. Our progress is described in the next section.

13 / 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 5 percent from a FY2016 baseline (on track)

Most people probably don’t realize how much packaging is thrown out every year. Packaging represents about 65 percent of household trash, and about one-third of the average landfill is composed of packaging material.

Much of this material is recyclable, but globally, only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling. The rest is either disposed in landfills or released to the environment. By 2050, oceans could contain more plastics than fish (by weight).

A similar story can be told for other types of packaging. Becoming more efficient with packaging is more urgent than ever – to keep packaging material out of landfills and out of the environment, and to reduce the amount of virgin material harvested.

Automotive companies and their suppliers ship vehicle parts using a variety of packaging types to prevent damage and maximize warehouse space. To reduce the amount of packaging used, Toyota set a global target to reduce packaging material use by 5 percent by fiscal year 2021. Here in North America, our first task has been to establish a data tracking system so that we can grasp the amount of packaging we use annually.

We have been actively working to reduce packaging for many years. Over the past decade, using returnable containers to ship parts between distribution centers, plants and dealerships saved more than 300 million pounds of wood and 185 million pounds of cardboard.

In 2016, Toyota’s Cambridge and Woodstock plants in Ontario, Canada, found a way to keep obsolete packaging out of landfills. Packaging is used to ship parts from a supplier to our plants. The packaging is stored at the suppliers’ facilities when not in use. When a plant starts production on a new vehicle model, the packaging used for the previous model’s parts becomes obsolete. Suppliers were disposing about 3.1 million pounds (1.4 million kilograms) of obsolete packaging in landfills per model change.

The two Canadian plants assemble four different models (Toyota Corolla and RAV4, and Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h). Since model changes are staggered, this means there is a model change every one or two years. To keep this material out of landfills, the plants now use a single supplier, PakFab, which acts as a hub. PakFab collects the obsolete packaging and ships it to providers to be refurbished for reuse or otherwise recycled. Now, 70 percent of packaging is reused and returned to our plants as refurbished packaging, and none of it goes to landfill.

Toyota’s plant in Mississippi has already adopted this practice and five other North American plants plan to adopt it in the near future. PakFab has created a U.S. hub in Ohio to collect recyclable packaging from the U.S. plants, with the potential to eliminate another 10 million pounds (4.5 million kilograms) of packaging waste per year.

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


Our approach to conserving natural resources has two elements – using sustainable materials in vehicles and parts and finding ways to extend the life of parts from end-of-life vehicles.

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.

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.

Precious Metals

In early 2017, Toyota Motor Corporation announced the commercial availability of a new, smaller catalyst that uses 20 percent less precious metal in approximately 20 percent less volume, while maintaining the same exhaust gas purification performance. Innovative design and manufacturing technologies have allowed for the mass production of the new catalyst, which will gradually be installed in new vehicle models.

Increased usage of catalytic precious metals to clean exhaust gas and reduce air pollution presents many issues, including increased costs and resource depletion. Toyota has conducted extensive research and development into finding solutions to help improve the purification efficiency of catalytic precious metals, such as finding the optimal substrate shape and length as well as modifying the cell wall thickness and cross-sectional area. Other R&D efforts include selectively wash-coating precious metals and other catalytic materials, and changing catalytic substrate cell density in line with exhaust gas flows.

Hybrid Vehicle Batteries

Hybrid vehicle batteries typically reach the end of their usable life in automobile-grade applications with significant remaining power storage capacity. While Toyota has a robust hybrid battery recycling program in place, we engage in ongoing efforts to extend the life of hybrid batteries.

We recovered 208 used Camry Hybrid nickel-metal hydride battery packs from Toyota dealers across the United States and used them in an innovative distributed energy system at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in Yellowstone National Park. Solar panels generate the renewable electricity stored within the batteries. Online since 2015, the system was a joint effort of Toyota, Indy Power Systems, Sharp USA SolarWorld, Patriot Solar, National Park Service and Yellowstone Park Foundation.

The Yellowstone system is the first of its kind to use recovered hybrid vehicle batteries for commercial energy storage. Engineers expect this type of use to double the overall lifespan of the hybrid batteries.

Each battery pack was disassembled and tested. New components were also designed and built by Indy Power Systems specifically for this application, including an onboard battery management system for each battery pack. The battery management system is designed to maximize battery life and is also providing important insights into real-world performance.

These insights are helping Toyota design future battery performance and durability improvements. Toyota’s plant in Huntsville, Alabama, was our first North American manufacturing plant to reuse batteries from end-of-life hybrid vehicles for energy storage. The energy stored in the battery packs is used to reduce peak demand and for emergency backup. We are currently evaluating the fourth rendition of our control system that would allow us to implement battery storage at additional sites.

To see and hear experts explain how reused Camry Hybrid battery packs are helping bring power to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in Yellowstone National Park, view the videos here and here.

Camry Hybrid Batteries

Thanks to 208 used Camry Hybrid batteries and some innovative thinking, the Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in Yellowstone National Park has reliable, sustainable, zero emission power for the first time since the park was founded in 1907.


Minimizing waste has always been part of our DNA, but how we go about minimizing waste has changed over the years. Initially, we focused on where our waste was disposed. In 2003, our plants in southern California and West Virginia became the first Toyota plants to achieve zero waste to landfill. Our focus on landfill was a way of reducing risk, but also a way to encourage recycling. It took several years, but we finally eliminated almost all landfilling. In calendar year 2016, only 1 percent of waste from our North American manufacturing plants, logistics sites and offices was disposed in a landfill. (For certain waste streams, landfill disposal is required by law.)

The next step was to increase recycling of marketable waste – material that we couldn’t use, but that we could sell to others. We increased marketable waste, but eventually, the opportunities for further reduction became limited.

We are finally at the top of the waste disposal pyramid, where the focus is on source reduction and reuse. These are the most challenging types of waste minimization. We are working on a methodology to track reduce and reuse activities consistently at all locations.

Toyota Motor North America is a founding member of the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (ZWBC), an organization that is now part of the U.S. Green Building Council. ZWBC defines a “Zero Waste Business” as one with a 90 percent or greater diversion of all waste from landfill, incineration and the environment, with the ultimate goal of 100 percent diversion. As a whole, Toyota’s North American operations meet this definition: In calendar year 2016, we recycled, reused or composted 94 percent, sending only 5 percent of waste to waste-to-energy or fuels blending and 1 percent to landfill.

Total waste increased by 3 percent between 2015 and 2016 due to an increase in production and the relocation of team members from California and Kentucky to the new campuses in Plano, Texas; York, Michigan; and Georgetown, Kentucky.

14 / Total Waste (Pounds)

2015 2016
Regulated Waste*
Recycled/Reused Regulated Waste 13,494,000 4,570,000
Waste to Energy or Fuels Blending 11,183,000 7,247,000
Incineration 0 0
Landfill 48,000 692,000
Non-Regulated Waste
Composted 1,088,000 831,000
Recycled Scrap Steel from Mfg Plants 659,718,000 678,593,000
Other Recycled/Reused 79,267,000 87,805,000
Waste to Energy or Fuels Blending 26,574,000 33,933,000
Incineration 0 0
Landfill 7,602,000 8,081,000
TOTAL WASTE GENERATED 798,974,000 822,112,000

*Regulated waste includes hazardous, universal and special wastes regulated at the federal, state, provincial or local level. Non-regulated waste is all other waste. Scope = Toyota’s North American manufacturing, sales and logistics sites in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Data from R&D sites and Mexico will be included in future years.

Examples of waste minimization projects implemented during fiscal year 2017 include:

  • The paint shop at Toyota’s Mississippi assembly plant eliminated 320,000 pounds of waste per year by changing the way waterborne paint waste is managed. Previously, waterborne paint waste and wastewater were collected in drums and 275-gallon portable containers and sent off-site for disposal. Team members discovered that much of the waterborne paint-contaminated water could be treated on-site, which eliminated the need for the portable containers.
  • The assembly plant in Indiana eliminated 24,000 pounds of hazardous waste by finding a recycling vendor to take undeployed air bags. The recycler safely deploys the air bags, then is able to reuse the nylon and metal.
  • Team members at the assembly plant in Cambridge, Ontario, replaced a corrosive chemical used to clean instrument panel molds with a product that is less hazardous and reduces waste by 7,055 pounds (3,200 kilograms) per year. They also found a way to reclaim the sealer applied to the car body, which eliminates 216 drums, or 140,000 pounds (63,500 kilograms), of hazardous waste per year.
Rosario Halberstadt (environmental specialist) and Roberta Davis (safety, security, environmental and facilities manager)

Pictured from left to right: Sarah Kountouris, chair of the Board of the Mississippi Recycling Coalition (MRC) and director of Keep Mississippi Beautiful; Rosario Halberstadt, environmental specialist at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi (TMMMS); and Roberta Davis, safety, security, environmental and facilities manager for TMMMS. Rosario and Roberta accepted the MRC Environmental Hero Award on behalf of TMMMS, which was named the 2016 Corporate Recycler of the Year. Each year, MRC seeks nominations of organizations, businesses, agencies, schools and local governments from around Mississippi that have excelled in their recycling and materials management program efforts. The nominees are evaluated based on promotion and outreach, the duration and extent of their recycling program, their overall environmental stewardship, and the manner in which recycling has improved community waste handling and environmental practices.

Toyota Mississippi 2016 Corporate Recycler of the year

Toyota’s plant in Mississippi was recognized with the 2016 Corporate Recycler of the Year award for its comprehensive commitment to improving and promoting recycling and waste reduction as well as its participation in National Public Lands Day (NPLD). As part of NPLD, team members recycled 50 55-gallon drums, which were painted by local children and distributed throughout Pontotoc and Union Counties as trash receptacles.

Spotlight: Recycling to the max

Toyota also emphasizes recycling through materials choices. This wall in the lobby of our new R&D campus in York, Michigan, is constructed of scrap pieces of wood, expertly combined and finished to create a unique look

During the construction of Toyota’s new R&D campus in York, Michigan, 461 tons of material were diverted from landfill. That’s 92 percent of construction waste put to productive use.

As part of our "One Toyota" plan to create more unified operations in North America, TMNA invested $154 million in the expansion of the R&D center in York, Michigan. The new campus, which opened in the spring of 2017, consolidates direct procurement and supplier engineering development talent from Kentucky as well as vehicle development and powertrain talent from California. These moves reaffirm Toyota's commitment to drive more local decision making and faster, more precise response to the needs of the marketplace.

The new campus also demonstrates Toyota’s commitment to environmental sustainability. The campus is anticipating LEED® Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

TMNA pursued sustainable, state-of-the-art design, materials, features and efficiencies across all of LEED® V4’s impact categories. Impact categories include energy, water, waste and innovation, among others, and are tailored to the built environment.

“Materials” is also an impact category. To earn credits in this area, TMNA developed a construction and demolition waste management plan. Under the plan, individual containers were provided during the entire construction process for on-site separation of six types of waste materials: wood, metal, cardboard, drywall, concrete/block, and construction debris. All subcontractors were required to deposit waste in the appropriate containers. This helped ensure the material would be recycled and would not end up in a landfill.

Subcontractors were also required to aid in the recycling of construction waste by protecting materials that could be reused or recycled, and preventing recyclable and salvageable waste products from becoming “contaminated” by waste material.

In the end, the plan was a success: 461 tons of material were recycled. That’s 92 percent of all construction waste.

“One of the interesting things about the LEED® V4 standard is the focus within each impact category on positive outcomes,” said Christina Rohs, TMNA building planning architect at York. “We see positive outcomes in keeping this material out of the landfill and circulating in the economy – it’s good for local businesses, good for the surrounding community and good for the environment.”

So how were these materials recycled? Here are a few examples:

  • Wood was sent to a power station, where it was burned to create renewable energy.
  • Cardboard was delivered to a nearby company in Ann Arbor, where it was processed and sent to a packaging company to be reused in the production of corrugated cardboard and boxboard.
  • Concrete and block material was crushed and reused as road base or mixed in with new concrete.

TMNA also emphasized recycling with material choices. A wide range of materials contain pre- and post-consumer recycled content. For example, the fire-resistant drywall contains 94 percent pre-consumer recycled content, meaning the material was diverted from the waste stream during its manufacturing process, and a wall in the lobby is constructed of scrap pieces of wood, expertly combined and finished to create a unique look.

Even after construction was completed, recycling continued. For example, TMNA asked the furniture vendor to reduce the amount of packaging used when delivering the office furniture. Desk chairs were wrapped in reusable blankets, and cardboard was eliminated wherever feasible. The cardboard that was used for packaging – more than 17,600 pounds – was delivered to Cincinnati Paperboard, where 100 percent of it has been recycled.

“LEED® really helped us consider recycling at every point of the building process,” explained Christina. “LEED® V4 places new emphasis on the environmental impacts of materials over the entire life cycle, which required our design team to pay close attention to the environmental and health impacts of the materials we wanted to use as well as the recycled content and recyclability. We’re really proud of the efforts of all of our team members and subcontractors who helped us work toward LEED® Platinum.”


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. Since 1994, Toyota has helped team members and surrounding communities recycle and properly dispose of household waste. During designated collection days, team members and local residents 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 a number of years and together, they have invested close to $1 million to ensure more than1.8 million pounds of material are recycled or properly disposed. For more information, see the full story here.

We have extended our reach beyond local communities to one very remote place: the Galápagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. We worked with WWF to design a new municipal solid waste landfill and a recycling center, which have dramatically improved waste handling practices and increased recycling.

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 working together to reduce waste, promote reuse and maximize recycling.

Toyotas Buffalo Plant Collecting Plastics Toyotas Buffalo Plant Sorting Plastics

Since 2004, team members from Toyota’s plant in Buffalo, West Virginia, have been collecting and baling plastics to donate to the Jackson County Development Center (JCDC). The center sorts and sells the plastics, using the income to provide training and employment opportunities to the disabled. For Earth Day in 2017, the plant donated two pieces of ergonomic matting, both 8 feet wide by 20 feet long. New mats were purchased for the plant when a new assembly line was installed; instead of throwing out the old mats, they were donated. Team members helped install the mats along the wooden tables at JCDC that serve as the sorting platform for the plastics waste.