Sharing Zero: Subaru of Indiana Helps Companies Work Toward Zero-landfill Status


Summer 2015

In 2002, the Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. (SIA) manufacturing plant was generating 5,000 tons of steel, cardboard, and plastic waste sent to landfills every year. While it was not unusual for their industry, it didn't sit well with the management of SIA, so they looked around for approaches to address it. Not finding any, they took it upon themselves to invent one.

First Zero-Landfill Automotive Manufacturing Plant

Just two years later, SIA became the first zero-landfill automotive manufacturing plant in the U.S. When Mr. Ikuo Mori, the president of its parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, heard about the initiative, he immediately said that SIA should share its hard-won intelligence with any other companies who were interested - for free.


Sharing Intelligence

Since then, SIA has shared their intelligence with more than 800 companies, such as Whole Foods, Campbell's, USPS, Coca-Cola, G.E., and Frito Lay, to help them achieve zero-landfill status with a program that's unique in manufacturing.

The wild success of this SIA program also has created opportunities to share different approaches to reducing waste and finding alternatives to landfills. "It's been very good for us too," says Denise Coogan, SIA safety and environmental compliance manager. "The presentations provide us with a space to exchange ideas about everything from which tool is best for a particular approach to how to communicate the initiative to associates." The passion of those associates is key. "It's amazing what you can accomplish with your associates," says Coogan.

SIA doesn't simply give other companies a cookie-cutter transplant for waste reduction. "It has to be their program so that it sticks," says Coogan.

She said that many companies are surprised by the cost savings that result from implementing the zero-landfill program. A myth persists that environmentally friendly practices are inherently more costly than outdated, harmful ones, but SIA has learned that eliminating waste actually generates cost savings. "We've treated the Earth poorly for too long," Coogan says. "We have to start treating the Earth better."