Honda (NYSE: HMC) announced today that 10 of its 14 North American manufacturing plants are now operating with zero waste to landfill, while the remaining four plants are functioning with “virtually zero” waste to landfill.
The announcement marks a significant milestone on the company's “Green Factory” initiative.
Honda has dramatically reduced the waste it sends to landfills – from 62.8 pounds in fiscal year 2001 to an estimated 1.8 pounds per automobile in the current fiscal year. Among all of its 14 plants in North America, Honda now sends less than one-half of 1% of operating waste to landfills.
Remaining waste product is either recycled or used for energy recovery, the company says.
Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, in Lincoln, Ala., became the first zero-waste-to-landfill auto plant in North America at the outset of production in 2001. Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, in Greensburg, Ind., also started production as a zero-waste-to-landfill plant in 2008.
Since the establishment of zero-waste-to-landfill production in its Alabama plant in 2001, Honda has undertaken a major initiative at plants throughout the region to eliminate landfill waste. To understand what comprised each plant's landfill waste, Honda associates went “Dumpster diving,” looking at the composition of the waste material resulting from all of its production activities.
On the basis of these findings and subsequent investigations, Honda associates at all 14 plants in North America have identified and implemented hundreds of waste-reduction and waste-recycling initiatives.
These initiatives run the gamut, from the reduction of offal (metal scrap) in stamping processes, to improved parts packaging for ease of recycling, to the minimization of paper and plastic waste from cafeterias.
As a result of these efforts over the past 10 years, the company has prevented an estimated 4.4 billion pounds of waste material from being sent to landfills, which is equivalent to the amount of household waste produced by 2.8 million Americans, roughly the population of Chicago, in a single year.
Many of the waste-reduction and recycling activities were undertaken through Honda's associate involvement programs, including its “NH Circle” quality circles, where teams of associates throughout the company engage in an annual competition to improve efficiency, cost and waste reduction.
Examples of waste reduction initiatives include:
Engine plants in Ohio, Alabama and Canada are reusing virtually all leftover sand from aluminum and ferrous metal casting operations. In FY2010, the three plants recycled a total of 9,400 tons of sand, which is used as mulch and landscaping material, and in concrete products.The Marysville Auto Plant initiated a program to reduce the amount of offal by reducing the size of steel sheets used to stamp new body parts. The program, which significantly reduces the environmental impact of transporting and recycling the steel, is now being adopted by other Honda factories in North America around the world. Honda Power Equipment in Swepsonville, N.C., initiated a closed-loop system for recycling aluminum scrap from the machining trimming process, melting the scrap into ingots that are recycled into die-cast operations.
The East Liberty, Ohio, auto plant built a recycling bin for bolts, other unused fasteners and parts packaging, enabling the factory to recycle more than 22 tons of steel each year.
Within the past year, all four Honda plants in Ohio completed their initiative to eliminate more than 500 metric tons of cafeteria waste produced annually. The plants joined with other Honda plants in North America in transitioning to washable dishware and to disposing of solid waste through composting, recycling and energy recovery.The Marysville and East Liberty, Ohio, plants also recently began washing and reusing thousands of plastic caps each day that are used to protect parts during shipping.
The only two remaining landfill waste streams in all of Honda's North American production activities are: paper, plastic and food waste from associate break rooms and cafeterias at Honda's Mexico automobile and motorcycle plants, where there exists no more environmentally responsible means of disposal; and a byproduct of the paint pretreatment process for aluminum body panels at both the East Liberty and Marysville, Ohio, auto plants, which, due to EPA regulations, is non-recyclable.
Honda says it is working with the EPA to identify an alternative means of disposal.