Toyota's Environmental Update: Energy Cuts, Zero Waste and Plant-Based Parts

Toyota's Environmental Update: Energy Cuts, Zero Waste and Plant-Based Parts

In Toyota's 2008 North American Environmental Report, the carmaker gives an update on how close it is to the goals in its five-year plan, which ends in 2011.

The plan's 17 goals include almost 50 specific targets; Toyota has achieved 20 so far. They cover a range of efforts: reducing energy use, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, assisting reduction of traffic congestion, using fewer substances of concern and expanding philanthropic deeds.

Toyota has already surpassed its goal to cut energy consumption in U.S. sales and logistic facilities by 18 percent compared to 2001. The company has reduced energy use by 22 percent, and is now aiming to bring that to 35 percent. Locations have cut energy through numerous changes like switching to Energy Star equipment, swapping in efficient light bulbs and installing tankless water heaters.

However, Toyota has not yet met its goal to cut energy use in manufacturing operations. On that front, the company wants to cut energy by 27 percent per vehicle compared to 2001. Energy use has actually gone up due to increased production and expansions at nonassembly plants and the cancellation of some energy reduction projects.

Many of Toyota's achievements have come in waste reduction and recycling. The company has met goals to reduce compensated waste (which includes nonhazardous waste and materials Toyota pays to be recycled) to 30 kg per vehicle, maintain near-zero waste to landfill status at its manufacturing facilities and recycle 65 percent of waste from the Toyota Motor Sales Headquarters.

One goal not yet complete involves evaluating new materials made from renewable resources, a category that covers Toyota's own Eco-Plastic along with natural fibers and recycled plastic. Toyota Motor Corporation, the global aspect of Toyota, which includes its North American operations, first established a biotechnology unit in 1998 and has been looking at bioplastic since then.

Just this month, Toyota announced it plans to use plant-derived plastic in more vehicle models, starting with hybrids next years. The company will use a variety of materials (polylactic acid, plant-derived polyester, castor oil derivatives and more) to make seat cushions, sun visors, trunk liners, door trim, scuff plates and other interior parts. Next year, the company hopes for bioplastic to account for 60 percent of the interior parts of vehicles it's used in.

The company's longer-range goals not in the five-year plan include selling one million hybrids a year by the 2010s (in early 2008 the millionth Prius was sold), providing hybrid versions of all Toyota models by the 2020s and increasing research and development spending over the next 10 years.