Toyota's Zero Landfill Factory

July 6, 2009
Located in Columbus, Indiana this lift truck factory has been a zero-landfill facility since 2004

The Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing facility (TIEM) in Columbus, Ind. facility, which is part of Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc. The 870,000 square feet factory, which includes a National Customer Center and training center, has been a Zero-landfill facility since 2004.

IndustryWeek asked Ron Allen, Environmental Engineer of Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing (TIEM), and Dixon Churchill, Environmental Health and Safety manager of TIEM how they were able to achieve the zero- land fill status.

In 2003, the concept of zero landfill was introduced by the then ISO 14001 management representative Tim Hollkamp. His idea was spurred by information presented by Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing's (TIEM) Environmental Action Plan enacted by our parent company, Toyota Industries Corp. This plan set forward a series of medium-range goals of achieving zero emission of direct landfill waste by the fiscal year 2005.

One of the main driving factors behind this initiative was Toyota's philosophy to reduce waste and its associates costs while working to become a good "environmental" citizen.

Working on this directive, Tim Hollkamp created an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for TIEM to meet this goal of zero landfill by April 1, 2004.

In October 2003, Tim Hollkamp, and TIEM's environmental engineer Ron Allen and environmental health and safety (EHS) manager Dixon Churchill began working with United Recyclables sales representative Doug Brown to implement a series of action steps for the program.

The following provides an overview of the program in the making:

Dive Into It -- Literally

On Nov. 1, 2003, TIEM detailed the company's current stream of waste, and went "dumpster diving" to determine exactly what TIEM had been sending to the landfill. Afterward, it created a non-hazardous waste profile and submitted an application to a waste-to-energy facility for the acceptance of waste materials. By December of the same year, TIEM calculated the cost of the project and received budget approval. It determined that the volume of waste sent to the facility would help keep disposal costs down, but that transportation fees would rise from current waste-hauling costs (from zero to $225 for transportation to Indianapolis.)

Start Low and Aim High

By Feb. 2004, TIEM evaluated the contractual relationship with its existing waste hauler, and learned that the hauler already transported materials to the waste-to-energy facility for other industrial groups. TIEM therefore made no change in transportation vendor or procedures. In early March, TIEM shifted its focus to capturing waste, starting with "low hanging fruit" (wood, cardboard, aluminum cans and paper products) in order to reduce waste volume immediately and ultimately achieve the highest recycling impact. TIEM then implemented a Develop Associate Training program, distributing educational materials to management and associates in order to teach Toyota personnel about waste disposal and the negative environmental impact of landfills. Finally, TIEM established recycling locations and procedures for collection by recycling vendors.

Develop a Plan of Action

In early April 2004, TIEM forged a partnership with a waste-to-energy facility and launched its Environmental Action Plan. More than 70 tons of waste was shipped to the facility in the month of April.

This concept of sending the materials to a waste-to-energy facility instead of a landfill did meet Toyota's goal of achieving zero landfill. However, this practice did not technically qualify as environmental waste reduction.

Starting in 2004, Allen and Churchill began implementing efforts to reduce the amount of materials delivered to the waste-to-energy facility.

TIEM Recycling Facts


Tons (loads) sent for recycling at waste-to-energy facility

April 2004

70.66 tons (15 loads)

Feb. 2008

18.85 tons (2 loads)

Jan. 2009

9.38 tons (1 load)

From 2004 to 2007, efforts included removing items such as wood pallets from the compactor, and sending them to pallet recycling companies for reuse. TIEM put more emphasis on keeping metals, paper and cardboard out of the trash compactor, and placing them instead in available recycling containers. This initiative helped reduce the amount of waste going into the compactor. However, a limited amount of recyclable materials were still being sent to the waste-to-energy facility.

Remember the 3Rs

Starting in Oct. 2007, TIEM successfully implemented a 3R program (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) within the facility, which included the recycling of plastics and other small recyclables such as aluminum rivets ends and copper wire scraps. This increased effort was due in part to the fact that recycling proceeds were donated to children's medical charities in Indiana. Another factor that encouraged the recycling efforts was TIEM's placement of recycling containers in high volume areas.

What advice would you have for other companies who are just beginning their "green" journey?

It's beneficial to partner with the best recycling company in the area. Request that the recycling company do a waste audit of your facility, and allow them to do their job by handling the recycling for you. Getting buy-in from a company's associates also is key to a successful recycling program. Employees are the biggest advocates for the pushing forward environmental initiatives.

Seek out quantifiable measurements and third-party validation that your company is on the right track. TIEM, for example was the recipient of Indiana's Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence. This award acknowledged Toyota's program for implementing an environmental management system that reduced volatile organic compounds emissions by 33%, reduced hazardous air pollutants by 80%, cut energy consumption by 24.4% and reduced natural gas consumption by 65%.

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

Focus: Workforce, Talent 

Follow Me on Twitter: @ASelkoIW

Bio: Adrienne Selko has written about many topics over the 17 years she has been with the publication and currently focuses on workforce development strategies. Previously Adrienne was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck? which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics and EHS Today

Editorial mission statement: Manufacturing is the enviable position of creating products, processes and policies that solve the world’s problems. When the industry stepped up to manufacture what was necessary to combat the pandemic, it revealed its true nature. My goal is to showcase the sector’s ability to address a broad range of workforce issues including technology, training, diversity & inclusion, with a goal of enticing future generations to join this amazing sector.

Why I find manufacturing interesting: On my first day working for a company that made medical equipment such as MRIs, I toured the plant floor. On every wall was a photo of a person, mostly children. I asked my supervisor why this was the case and he said that the work we do at this company has saved these people’s lives. “We never forget how important our work is and everyone’s contribution to that.” From that moment on I was hooked on manufacturing.

I have talked with many people in this field who have transformed their own career development to assist others. For example, companies are hiring those with disabilities, those previously incarcerated and other talent pools that have been underutilized. I have talked with leaders who have brought out the best in their workforce, as well as employees doing their best work while doing good for the world. 

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