Honda Hits 'Zero-Landfill' Target in North America

Honda Hits 'Zero-Landfill' Target in North America

Honda image CC-licensed by Ian Muttoo/Flickr

Honda's North American manufacturing plants have been on a mission to find ways to keep every bit of waste created out of the trash, and now, after a decade of work, the 14 plants send almost zero waste to landfills.

In 2001, when Honda began working on waste, it was sending 62.8 pounds of industrial waste to landfill for each vehicle produced. By mid-2012, it expects to send 1.8 pounds per vehicle.

The first facility to meet the company's zero-waste goal was Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in 2001, and a few plants that simultaneously achieved zero landfill waste earlier this year capped off the effort, said Marcos Frommer, American Honda's manager of corporate affairs.

The plants' efforts began with "dumpster dives" to get an accurate look at what trash they were making and what could be done with it.

"We literally had teams of people combing through dumpsters, sorting and analyzing what was in them in terms of volume and looking at various waste streams," Frommer said. "That's how you determine what is being wasted." 

As a result, plants took hundreds of actions, including:

  • Reducing the size of steel sheets used for stamping parts
  • Reusing sand from aluminum and ferrous metal casting operations
  • Changing packaging for parts to make it recyclable
  • Building recycling bins for materials
  • Minimizing paper and plastic waste in cafeterias
  • Composting food waste

Frommer said plants in some cases had to weigh the environmental benefits and costs when deciding what to do with certain materials. "Landfilling is definitely the cheapest possible solution," he said. "These were not meant to be cost-saving initiatives—and actually, some of them are costing us more."

Sand, which is used to make molds for casting, used to be sent to landfills, where it was used it to line pits and cover layers of trash. Honda's engine plants in Ohio, Alabama and Canada now recycle their leftover sand as mulch, landscaping materials or in concrete. In 2010, the plants recycled 9,400 tons of sand.

Ten of the plants don't send any waste to landfills, and the other four plants only send two wastes, which total less than half of 1 percent of Honda's operating waste: a paint pre-treatment byproduct that is not recyclable per U.S. EPA regulations, and paper, plastic and food waste from plants in Mexico, which Honda says lack environmentally-responsible disposal options.

Honda image CC-licensed by Ian Muttoo/Flickr