Plastic recycling — really all recycling for that matter — is increasing through a national program for Toyota Motor Corp's North American spare parts business.
The effort includes the company's largest parts centres in Ontario, California, and Hebron, Kentucky, as well as regional parts distribution centres in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.
The goal is to eventually expand the effort throughout the company's other parts distribution centres over the next couple of years.
Toyota is using Boles Parts Supply as a contractor for its recycling, including parts and packaging, through the company's National Scrap Program. Boles provides a single vendor source to take all of the recyclables from the six current sites in a single-stream format, according to Toyota.
That means Toyota workers can simply intermingle all of the recyclables without worrying about separating them on site, freeing up more time to do their parts distribution work.
“Toyota is very protective of our product and our quality. And scrap, we were handling that to ensure that defective products don't get out in the marketplace somehow,” said Juliana Dee, manager of the recycling program at Toyota's North American Parts Operation.
But that had become difficult with dozens of vendors around the country handling a variety of materials at the different parts distribution locations, she explained. “Each location basically had their own process, so it wasn't very standardized. We saw some challenges. We definitely saw some opportunities to improve.”
Going to a single vendor to handle recycling for multiple locations allowed Toyota to standardize and implement controls, Dee explained.
“Our goal every day is to get parts in the door and get parts out the door. When you start talking about recycling and separation, it is cumbersome for the facilities to manage that and try to do the right thing every day,” added Ernest Lopez, environmental administrator at NAPO.
So in stepped Boles to start handling those duties at the six sites. The company processes some materials directly at locations in Riverside, California, and Atlanta, while also finding third-party companies to take on other items.
Toyota still relies on its own internal recycling efforts at several parts distribution centres, especially ones on the East Coast due to logistical challenges the company is trying overcome.
But for the six locations now using Boles, the amount of material being recycled and diverted from landfills has increased due to the program, according to Lopez. That means items that were once trashed are now finding their way into the recycling stream.
Foam that was once thrown away or incinerated, as well as cloth, now gets recaptured and recycled, for example.
Originally started in Ontario and Hebron in 2013, the scrap program captured more than 40,000 pounds of foam and cloth during the first 15 months of the effort just from those two sites.
When the program expanded to the additional four locations, the amount of recycled foam, rubber, glass and cloth jumped to more than 88,000 pounds from April 2014 to June 2015, Toyota said.
Toyota's parts recycling program handles a wide variety of plastic items and provides the company a secure system of knowing the products deemed unacceptable can no longer find their way back onto the market. A tracking system certifies the parts are recycled by Boles.
“We are recycling items now that we couldn't recycle before,” Lopez said.
Plastic bumper covers are a good example of one part that the company had difficulty recycling before Boles came on board. Those are now shredded and reprocessed into pellets that are then used to make new auto parts.
Toyota hopes to expand its national recycling program through Boles to parts distribution locations in Mansfield, Massachusetts, West Caldwell, New Jersey, Glen Burnie, Maryland, Aurora, Illinois, Kansas City, Missouri, and Dallas by the end of its 2017 fiscal year.
Boles not only handles a wide variety of plastic parts for Toyota, but also plastic packaging used to transport those products, including bubble wrap and shrink wrap.
Toyota recycled a total of 67 tons of plastics from the six sites using Boles from 2014 through October 2015, Toyota said.
“We are able to rely on them to make sure this stuff does not end up in the landfill,” Lopez said.