Toyota Drives Toward Zero Waste 

I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing environmentalists in government and business, but some people really stand out as extreme environmental leaders.

Each year our senior managers locked themselves in a conference room with hundreds of award nominations to find the most cutting edge, innovative, and inspirational people and groups working towards environmental protection. Ryan McMullen and his colleagues at Toyota Motor Sales were recognized by EPA’s Pacific Southwest award winners.  They are my heroes — they are living the dream of zero waste.

image of a cart full if plastic wrapping material in an automotive factoryRyan, an enthusiastic Toyota environmental expert in Torrance, CA, spearheaded efforts to eliminate waste through upstream thinking and complex lifecycle analysis. As a result, Toyota’s vehicle distribution centers send less than 4 ounces of waste to the landfill for each vehicle processed.

Toyota Motor Sales started using returnable shipping containers to conserve 17.6 million pounds of wood and cardboard in 2008.  And, there’s more —

  • Toyota’s Headquarters and nine facilities are sending Zero Waste to landfill,
  • Ten plants are achieving 95% waste reduction, and
  • Twelve distribution centers achieving over 90% recycling rates.

image of flattened cardboard boxes in a gray cart in an automotive factoryThese efforts have kept 118,990 trees from being cut down and conserved the energy equivalent of 1.6 million gallons of gasoline by providing recycled materials to industry.

Toyota worked with the University of California – Santa Barbara to develop and apply the Environmental Packaging Impact Calculator (EPIC) to measure and justify shifts in the company’s packaging and logistics.  They even use EPA’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool to improve green computing.

Toyota certainly deserves the EPA award. Do you have any zero waste tips to share?

About the author: Timonie Hood has worked on EPA Region 9’s Resource Conservation Team promoting waste reduction, recycling, and green building for 10 years in EPA’s Pacific Southwest Office.