MARYSVILLE, OHIO (July 18, 1:30 p.m. ET) — Plastic candy wrappers and a sticky ethical question are the only two things standing between Honda Motor Co. and its ambitious goal of declaring that every one of its 14 North American factories is producing zero landfill waste.
The vexing issues show the unexpected potholes that trouble automakers attempting to promote themselves as environmental champions.
“We could save money if we just sent everything to a landfill,” says Karen Heyob, associate chief engineer at Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. in Marysville, Ohio, who heads the effort. “But we don't want to be that kind of company. Landfills are not the solution for waste management.”
After a decade of seeking greener ways to get rid of factory waste than trucking it to the town dump, Honda declared last week that 10 of its 14 U.S., Canadian and Mexican plants are zero-landfill operations.
The other four — two in Mexico and its two big vehicle assembly plants in Marysville and East Liberty, Ohio — are going to take awhile to reach the goal line because of some unique challenges, Heyob says.
At the Mexican engine and vehicle plants, the problem is plastic food packaging, including candy wrappers and corn chip bags, in the employee cafeterias. At other plants, that garbage would be sorted, shipped to an incinerator and burned to produce electricity.
Easy enough, Heyob says, except there are no such waste-to-energy incinerators near the Mexican plant. The thought of shipping the garbage across the continent to a U.S. location isn't viable, she says. So the trash is sent to a landfill.
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