March 1, 2005

Toyota tops in “green plastic” use

Detroit, Michigan – Toyota Motor Corporation was tops in a new study of automakers’ use of non-toxic, recyclable plastics in vehicles sold in the United States, although no company received a grade higher than C.

The study by the non-profit Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, Michigan, in collaboration with Clean Production Action of Spring Brook, New York, graded the six top-selling automakers on their commitment to using environmentally-friendly, sustainable plastics.

Sustainable plastics are defined as those that don’t contain toxic chemicals, are recyclable, and are manufactured from renewable raw materials. General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Honda and Nissan all received D or D-plus ratings.

“Toyota is the clear leader in integrating safer and environmentally friendly plastics into its automobiles and has implemented many practices that U.S. automakers can learn from,” said Ecology Center’s auto project director Charles Griffith. “But the fact that the top performer received a C grade means there’s still a lot of room for improvement across the board.”

The report also found that some foreign automakers fare better, because the U.S. government lags behind Japan and the European Union in recycling requirements. It said GM has acknowledged it focuses more on sustainable plastics in its overseas subsidiaries, such as Opel and Vauxhall.

“There’s a double standard,” Griffith said. “Why should a GM car in Europe have safer, more environmentally friendly plastic than one in the U.S.? Automakers need to provide environmentally safe plastics to consumers equally across the globe.”

But General Motors questioned the methods used in creating the report and said its global standards are consistent. “We share and encourage these standards with our suppliers to ‘green the supply chain’,” said GM spokesperson Joanne Krell.

The amount of plastic used in vehicles increased from 0.6 per cent in 1960 to 7.5 per cent in 2003, accounting for 4.3 billion pounds of plastic annually in the U.S. alone, the Ecology Center said. The report found that all six automakers still rely heavily on petrochemical-based plastics, including PVC, made from fossil fuels and chlorine and used in products such as dashboards and exterior trim.

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