Product development engineers at Honda’s Research and Development facility in Raymond, Ohio, have a long history of using recycled post-industrial scrap material as insulation and sound-deadening materials in Honda and Acura products.
More than a decade ago, engineers introduced basalt (volcanic rock) into the roof liner of the 2007 Acura MDX to deliver the necessary balance of strength and weight, explains Robert Proctor, manager of the materials research division at Honda R&D Americas, Inc. Previously, engineers also developed a soybean-based foam that is used in vehicle headrests, and, most recently, they have incorporated recycled plastic bottles as the PET component of the seat material on the 2019 Acura RDX.
Additional materials Honda engineers have developed include:
- 2,800 tons (5.6 million pounds) of post-industrial textile waste—blue jeans and towels included—into hood and dashboard insulation
- recycled plastics as seat fabric on the 2018 Acura RDX
- plant-based starches used on seats in the Clarity vehicles
During the recycling process, explains Proctor, fabrics are collected and shredded to separate the fabric into individual fibers. Those fibers are then treated with a flame-retardant material and compressed into an insulation-type material.
“Each insulator is then applied as an individual part to the interior or exterior of the vehicle, giving a second life to the recycled materials,” says Proctor.
According to Raminta Jautokas, manager of corporate sustainability at American Honda, the company factors the environmental impact of its operations into all facets of the business.
“While many businesses are purchasing renewable power, we have renewable energy projects such as wind turbines and solar arrays located on Honda property,” she says. “We are zero waste-to-landfill at nearly all of our facilities, and our Green Factory initiative has resulted in many of our buildings receiving EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] Energy Star or LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certifications.”
Over the past 10 years, Jautokas says Honda’s manufacturing plants have consistently improved many of its environmental processes in order to reduce energy use, waste, water usage and chemical releases.
“Honda has expanded this mindset to include its suppliers and dealers,” notes Jautokas. “Suppliers have responded by following Honda’s prescribed practices for environmental improvement, while the Honda Green Dealer program resulted in the elimination of 25,000 metric tons of CO2 [carbon dioxide] last year and nearly 60,000 tons since its introduction in 2013.”
The processes discussed thus far are specific to North America, according to Jautokas, but the company has various global targets for environmental performance, including:
- A 30 percent reduction in the global average CO2 emissions intensity by 2020 of Honda automobiles, motorcycles and power equipment products, compared with fiscal year 2001 levels.
- In 2016, Honda announced an initiative to rapidly advance the deployment of electrified vehicle technology and has stated its intention to have two-thirds of its global sales from electrified vehicles by 2030.
- In 2015, Honda announced a goal to halve its total company CO2 emissions levels as measured against a fiscal year 2000 baseline.
“In every aspect of our business, we treat our suppliers as valuable members of our team, so including them in our commitment to improve the environment comes naturally,” says Jautokas. “There are many different ways that Honda suppliers can impact the environment, and there are improvements that can be made at every step of the process. Our purchasing departments engage with suppliers as well as the logistics companies that transport parts and materials to Honda entities throughout the world to find the best methods to produce those materials. We created 'Green Purchasing' guidelines to help improve the environmental impact throughout Honda's extended supply chain. Currently, nearly 300 of our suppliers report emissions data to Honda, representing 95 percent of our supplier spend each year.”
In addition, Honda associates throughout North America have also participated in more than 50 different environmentally themed projects, including efforts that range from working with the Marine Science Foundation and the Nature Conservancy to cleaning beaches, watersheds and highways.