Ten Honda Plants in North America Achieve Zero Landfill Waste

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While all automakers have environmental initiatives well under way, Honda and GM appear to have the most sweeping company-wide programs in place.

Honda announced today that ten of 14 Honda manufacturing plants in North America are now operating with zero landfill waste. The remaining four plants are functioning with “virtually zero” landfill waste.

Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, in Lincoln, Ala., became the first zero landfill waste auto plant in North America at the beginning of production in 2001. Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, in Greensburg, Ind., also started production as a zero-waste-to-landfill plant in 2008.

General Motors has 76 manufacturing facilities with zero landfill waste, and has a goal of adding 10 more facilities by the end of 2011 out of a total of 145. Manufacturing is at the company’s core, so converting plants produces the largest environmental benefits and savings, of course. Nonetheless, GM is in the process of converting non manufacturing sites to recycling. Ten non-manufacturing sites now reuse, recycle or convert to energy all waste from normal operations making them landfill free.

Waste sent to landfills has been dramatically reduced at Honda auto plants throughout North America, the Japanese owned company said in a statement, from 62.8 pounds of industrial waste to landfills for every automobile produced in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2001, to an estimated 1.8 pounds per automobile in the current fiscal year 2012.  Among all of its 14 plants in North America, Honda now sends less than one-half of 1 percent of all operating waste to landfills. Remaining waste product is either recycled or used for energy recovery.

While all automakers have environmental initiatives well under way, Honda and GM appear to have the most sweeping company-wide programs in place.

“This is an important achievement and a tremendous reflection on the commitment and continuous effort of Honda associates throughout our company over the past 10 years to reduce waste from Honda’s production operations,” said Karen Heyob, manager at Honda of America, Mfg, Inc., who is responsible for Honda’s green factory initiatives in North America.  “This is an even more significant achievement when you consider that we also produce in North America the engines and transmissions that power our products.”

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.

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Jeff Moore from the Ferrous Casting Department at Honda's automobile engine plant in Anna, Ohio, inspects sand molds used for casting brake discs.

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 range 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, or 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 Honda’s value to its customers and society, with a strong focus on efficiency, cost and waste reduction.

Examples of Honda associates’ 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.
  • No steel scrap from North American manufacturing operations has been going to landfills. In one example of Honda’s effort to reduce steel scrap, in FY2009, 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 including the Canada, Indiana and East Liberty, Ohio, auto plants, and is being considered by other Honda plants around the world.
  • In FY2008, 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 Timmonsville, S.C., powersports plant, which produces all-terrain vehicles, recycles hard plastic foam, sheet plastic foam and other recyclable plastics from incoming parts shipments, diverting more than 130 tons of plastic from landfills each year.
  • 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: (1) 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 (2) 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 is working with the EPA to identify an alternative means of disposal.

About Kenneth Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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