Achieving Zero Waste to Landfills for Factories in North America

7/14/2011 4:00:00 AM

When people think of Honda’s environmental leadership, their attention naturally turns to our leading product fuel efficiency or the company’s pioneering efforts to reduce tailpipe emissions and advance alternative-fuel technologies.  What they may not realize is that Honda’s commitment to the environment includes significant and often industry-leading efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the factories that manufacture our products.

We recently achieved an important milestone in our longstanding “green factory” initiative—with the achievement of zero waste-to-landfill for 10 of the 14 manufacturing plants operating in North America.  Taken together, these plants have the capacity to produce more than 3 million Honda and Acura products – automobiles, all-terrain vehicles, engines and power equipment products – in a single year, and do it while sending less than one-half of one percent of all manufacturing waste to landfills, with the vast majority of the remaining waste being recycled and reused in either our own plants or as material in other company’s products.

Our drive to zero waste has been more than a decade in the making and began in earnest with the establishment of our sixth North American auto plant, in Lincoln, Alabama, which became the very first zero-waste-to-landfill auto plant in North America when it began operations in 2001. Our seventh and newest auto plant in the region, in Greensburg, Indiana, was also designed from the ground up to be a zero-waste-to-landfill facility.  What’s especially noteworthy, however, about what we’ve accomplished is that this level of waste prevention is not only happening at our newer auto plants but also at our older facilities, which were designed long before zero waste was a goal.

For example, our auto plant in Marysville, Ohio, started producing Honda cars in America in 1982.  Nearly 29 years later, Honda’s first U.S. auto plant is capable of turning out 440,000 Honda and Acura cars and light trucks in a single year with no paper, metal or plastic scrap sent to landfills.  Its only waste stream is a byproduct of the paint pre-treatment process for aluminum body panels, which is non-recyclable due to EPA regulations. Honda’s second U.S. plant, the Anna Engine Plant in Anna, Ohio, likewise is transforming raw aluminum and steel into engines for Honda and Acura products, upwards of 1 million engines each year, without contributing a single scrap of paper or any other waste to landfills.

As the engineer in charge of Honda’s “green factory” initiatives in North America, I’ve been able to witness first-hand the incredible spirit of invention and innovation contributed by Honda associates at plants throughout the region to make this achievement possible.  Honda associates in our Marysville plant, for example, created a new process for significantly reducing the metal scrap from body panel stamping operations, a process which Honda plants in Japan and other countries are studying for future implementation.

This, of course, is not the end of the race for Honda or our commitment to reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing in North America.  Our “green factory” focus is broad and includes ongoing efforts to reduce waste, cut emissions and minimize the use of precious natural resources.

As a member of the Honda family, I am incredibly proud of what our associates have accomplished for the environment and for our customers.

Of course, our customers will always know us first and foremost through the products we produce.  But I also hope that they can share in the pride we feel in knowing that Honda and Acura products are being produced at factories that are among the most environmentally responsible plants in the world.

Karen Heyob
Associate Chief Engineer, N.A. Green Factory Leader
Honda of America Mfg., Inc.
Marysville, Ohio