LINCOLN, Alabama – Since the first dealer-ready Odyssey rolled down the assembly line at Honda’s Alabama plant on Nov. 14, 2001, the automaker’s facility has produced more than 3.2 million vehicles and engines.
In the past 13 years, the $2 billion plant that sprawls over an area the size of 65 football fields has produced not a trace of one thing you might expect for a manufacturing operation so vast — waste.
Honda says its Alabama plant was the first North American automaking facility to achieve zero-waste-to-landfill status when it launched mass production in 2001, and it has remained that way since.
Honda’s is not the only Alabama auto industry facility to score high marks for sustainability. Another example: Toyota’s engine plant in Huntsville has launched a number of environmentally friendly initiatives, earning it recognition as one of the nation’s “greenest” factories. Toyota’s Alabama plant hasn’t sent any manufacturing waste to a landfill since it opened in 2003.
Honda and Toyota officials say their Alabama facilities set out from the start to become leaders in energy efficiency and environmental stewardship.
“At Honda, we’re committed to improving the energy efficiency of or products and our manufacturing facilities,” said Ted Pratt, manager of corporate affairs for Honda’s Alabama operations. “We are constantly search for – and creating – cutting-edge technologies that balance environmental responsibilities with our customers’ desires for performance and safety.”
Honda’s Alabama plant has established an extensive recycling program that keeps waste out of the landfill. Each year, the Talladega County factory recycles:
- Scrap metal weighing 80 million pounds
- 5 million pounds of cardboard
- 500,000 pounds of plastic
- 20,000 pounds of aluminum cans
In addition, Honda has teamed with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB) in an initiative called Project Green, which encourages the recycling of a wide variety of materials. AIDB student workers and Project Green staffers collect more than 19,000 pounds of waste vegetable oil from the Honda plant’s three cafeteria locations each year. The used oil is transformed into biofuel for internal use at the plant.
TOYOTA SUSTAINABILITY PLAN
Toyota’s Alabama operation has adopted sustainability practices that have reduced energy, waste, and water usage at the facility.
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year awarded Toyota its 10th consecutive Energy Star Partner of the Year Award, the agency gave a shout out to the Alabama factory for specific initiatives. The EPA also gave the plant its second Energy Star Challenge for Industry Award for reducing energy use 14 percent per unit produced for one year.
The Toyota Alabama plant outlined the estimated overall impact of its “green” projects in a sustainability report:
- Reduction in water use equivalent to 75 million water bottles
- Energy savings that would power 445 households for a year
- Reduction in carbon dioxide equal to 2,855 metric tons
In one of the programs cited by the EPA, the Alabama plant plans to reuse batteries from older-model hybrid vehicles as stationary energy storage. These battery packs – charged during off-peak hours or renewable sources such as solar – can be used to reduce energy demand or as part of an emergency backup system. The facility is aiming to be the first Toyota manufacturing plant in North America to install this innovative system.
Toyota Alabama is targeting big gains with a rainwater harvesting program. Directing collected rainwater through a solar-powered pump to an on-site treatment system could provide the plant with 13 million gallons of an alternative water supply.
Partnerships also are part of the game plan. For example, the Huntsville plant is teaming with Alabama A&M University to explore how Toyota could utilize biofuel at its North American factories. Alabama A&M is using an automated processor that’s about the size of a stand-up arcade game to convert used cooking oil from the plant into high-grade biofuel.
“Toyota has a global commitment to reduce the environmental impact at all stages of vehicle life cycle. Initiatives that promote the reduction of natural resources and projects like rainwater harvesting help us to exist in harmony with the environment,” said Kim Ogle, Toyota Alabama spokesperson.
“In addition, our team members support community efforts that help to improve our environment. For example, in support of National Public Lands Day last month more than 100 volunteers worked to restore a local park.”