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GM and Toyota Continue to Lessen Landfill

24 January 2007

The world’s two largest automakers, GM and Toyota, each recently announced additional progress in reducing waste to landfill from their operations.

A General Motors Powertrain complex in Wixom, Michigan, has achieved landfill-free status for waste materials generated directly from its daily operations—the third such GM facility to do so. More than 98% of the waste materials from the complex (596 tons annually) are recycled and nearly 2% (or 11 tons annually) are converted to energy at a waste-to-energy facility.

Other GM landfill-free facilities include engine plants in Tonawanda, New York and Flint, Michigan. The three facilities divert over 32,000 tons of waste from landfills each year.

Items that are recycled or reused at the Wixom site this year include 270 tons of cardboard, 37 tons of scrap metal, 35 tons of wood, 13 tons of oil, 11 tons of plastic and 16 tons of paper. About 10 tons of trash is sent to an incinerator and burned to provide electricity. Waste from the site that is diverted from landfills avoids the emission of 569 tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year. In addition, the generation of waste has been greatly reduced at the site.

Work towards achieving this goal began in 2005 as part of the site’s Environmental Management initiative.

In North America, GM facilities have reduced non-recycled waste by more than 76% since 1997 by either eliminating the generation of waste or increasing recycling. These same North American facilities currently recycle nearly 88% of the waste they generate.

Globally, the recycling rate for GM facilities is approximately 86%. GM was one of the first organizations—and to date is the only auto manufacturer—inducted into the US EPA WasteWise Hall of Fame.

For its part, Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) USA recently announced its Think Green! program, which achieves a high recycling rate and zero waste to landfill at TMS headquarters. Think Green! enables TMS to divert waste from landfills and avoid the emission of approximately 1,000 tons of green house gases each year.

Through a comprehensive campus-wide recycling program and further waste sorting at CR&R Waste and Recycling Services’ state-of-the-art material recovery facility, TMS now achieves a recycling rate of 80%. Remaining material is utilized as fuel to produce electrical energy.

In the first three quarters of 2006, TMS diverted 615 tons of materials from landfill—equivalent to the weight of 420 Toyota Prius hybrids. By January 2007, TMS reached a new milestone of zero waste to landfill.

January 24, 2007 in Sustainability, Vehicle Manufacturers | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

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This only makes sense. My guess is that in addition to creating good PR for GM and Toyota, these initiatives are saving them a nice little wad of cash. It seems as if the zero waste to landfill paradigm could be extended to communities as well. This would make especially good sense for urban communities that currently ship waste to landfills hundreds of miles away. Does anyone know if or where this has been tried at a community level? Near where I live, there is a huge landfill, and much of the waste is supposedly coming from Philly and New Jersey, a 4-5 hour drive. That can't be cheap or logistically easy!

I think this is a great program that more companies should participate in - especially if their goods/services contribute GHGs.

Wouldn't it make even more sense for a company like GM that is doing this at MFG sites to also add a green component like this to their purchasing/vendor scorecard? Then, gear purchases towards these vendors? That way - not only is their plant being responsible, but the entire supply chain that rolls up into the plant is being socially responsible.

Also, similar to what Bob mentions - and this might be done already - providing workers at that particular plant to bring in their waste to be recycled / converted to energy as well. This extends the program beyond the plant, but also encompasses the community its helping to support.

It also brings in extra cash. If people are bringing in lots of aluminium cans and the like they're contributing a bit of money to the cause as well.

While these companies have both done a decent job of recycling, it is primarily done because of their environmental management systems (ISO 14001). I have worked for automotive facilities at Toyota and Ford and have directly worked on environmental management programs and waste management programs. From this experience I can tell you that Toyota Motor Manufacturing recycles almost every possible waste product from their assembly lines and really does go the extra mile beyond simply meeting ISO 14001 requirements. Ford was better than I expected, but still could improve significantly. At the Ford facility I worked at they claimed 97% recycling, but this was misleading given the large volumes of sand (for cylinder head casting operations) and the real number was about 77%.

These companies have shown how much of their waste can be recycled or eliminated and I think these environmental management systems should be used in RETAIL, to eliminate unnecessary waste, packaging etc.

If GM can reduce waste given their current financial woes, then every other major corporation in the USA should be able to do the same.

Two thoughts:

1. Recycling is the third R, behind reduce and reuse. This makes sense, since reduce doesn't use physical or energy resources at all, reuse needs those resources just once, and recycle uses some energy (and sometimes new feedstock) every time its recycled. So, hopefully in addition to the third R, they're focusing on the first two.


2. Recycling isn't net-zero cost. Some things make money (usually metals), and recycling some things cost money (often papers and plastics). There were a few comments suggesting that the companies are saving money by recycling, and that isn't necessarily so.

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