Ford Targets 41% Per-Vehicle Cut in Waste to Landfills

Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. automaker, said that it plans to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills for each vehicle that it builds by 41 percent as part of a five-year plan through 2016.

Ford plans to reduce waste generated per vehicle globally to 13.4 pounds (6.1 kilograms) per vehicle, from 22.7 pounds in 2011, the Dearborn, Michigan-based company said in an e-mailed statement. Ford pledged separately in June that it would reduce energy use in its factories by 25 percent in the same period.

Environmental sustainability is a key initiative for Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford. The 55-year-old great-grandson of founder Henry Ford has dubbed himself an “environmental industrialist” and voiced support for sustainability and fuel efficiency. Mulally, 67, has introduced new hybrid and plug-in versions of Ford cars in the past year including the C-Max wagon and Fusion sedan.

“We’ve had success in pockets all around the world, and sometimes great success, in piloting some of the technologies that allow zero waste to landfill,” Larry Merritt, Ford’s global manager of environmental policy, said in a telephone interview. Ford will use “lessons learned from these pockets of success and apply them universally to all of the plants.”

Ford said it already reduced the amount of waste per vehicle by 40 percent from 2007 to 2011, with the amount sent to landfill dropping to 22.7 pounds from 37.9 pounds. That was accomplished in part through pilot projects such as a paint solid recycling program at Ford’s assembly plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.

Avoiding Landfills

Instead of going to landfills, paint solids from Ford’s factories are sent to nearby utility companies that use the material as a fuel source, Merritt said. The program, which started in 2011, has been replicated at Ford assembly plants in Chicago as well as Wayne and Dearborn, Michigan, he said.

Ford’s remaining challenges include reducing metallic particles, abrasives and oils left over from production of engine and transmission parts, Merritt said. One way Ford can reduce such waste is by using less oil for lubrication during machining, he said.

Ford generated $225 million by recycling 568,000 tons of scrap metal in the U.S. and Canada in 2012, according to the statement.