Automakers Reduce Manufacturing Waste

By now you’ve heard of the efforts of car companies to amp up the fuel efficiency of their vehicles. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard for 2025 is 54.5 mpg. A cut in emissions from gas would certainly do the environment some good, but it’s not the only thing automakers are doing to reduce their environmental impact.

The effort to reduce the environmental impact of passenger vehicles starts at the factory. Many automakers operate plants that send little or no waste to the landfill. Others are on their way to this goal. Here’s a look at what some car manufacturers are doing to cut down on manufacturing waste.


The Audi plant at Ingolstadt, Germany recycles 95% of the waste generated in vehicle production. To increase sustainability, this Audi plant also monitors the use of cooling lubricants, relies on power generated at the plant, and is studying alternative energy for future use.


BMW recycles 94% of the waste generated in its manufacturing office and plant. The company has programs for recycling bottles and cans, packing materials, cafeteria waste, paper, cardboard, plastic, and more. The automaker designs its vehicles so that when they reach the end of their life on the road, they can be dismantled and recycled to make new BMWs.

General Motors

More than half of GM’s manufacturing plants are landfill free, including 30 in the United States. GM defines a landfill-free facility as one that doesn’t send any waste from daily operations to the landfill. Reduction, reuse, or recycling efforts include recycling aluminum, pallets, cardboard, and plastic. GM’s goal is to increase their landfill-free facilities from 104 to 125 by 2020.


Honda announced in 2011 that 10 of its 14 North American plants have zero-waste-to-landfill status. The vehicle manufacturer reduced the amount of industrial waste sent to landfills from 62.8 pounds per vehicle in 2001 to just 1.8 pounds per vehicle in 2012. Across its 14 plants in North America, Honda sends less than 0.5% of its operating waste to landfills.


Mazda had a goal of achieving zero-landfill status by March of 2011. The company actually reached its goal two years early in 2009, and has remained landfill free ever since.


In 2004, Subaru of Indiana became the first manufacturing facility in the U.S. to become landfill free. The automaker produces all of its vehicles in zero-landfill plants and has not sent any waste to landfills since 2004. Subaru recycles or uses as fuel 100% of its manufacturing waste.

The effort for sustainability in the automotive manufacturing process has made many improvements in the past decade. What do you think the future will hold for going green in the automotive industry?