Inside Toyota’s Sustainable Metal Recycling Process

Toyota GR Corolla
Toyota is enhancing circularity and sustainability, partnering with Metallurgy Company Sun Metalon to execute a metal recycling process

Toyota has an extensive recycling process as part of bid to contribute to and facilitate a circular economy.

Toyota Metal, the automotive manufacturer's official recycling company, was established in 1970. It recovers 400 tons of daily auto resources, which is equivalent to the weight of ten aeroplanes. 

The business also recycles motorcycles, boats, washing machines, air-conditioning systems, airbags and industrial waste in addition to cars, a sizable recycling commitment that has extensive environmental benefits. 

A few years ago, in 2019, Toyota Motor North America expanded its battery recycling programme to include lithium batteries, disassembling batteries and then reusing components in the manufacturing of new ones. 

As of 2023, the North American division partnered with Redwood Materials to enhance battery recycling and material procurement.

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Toyota & Sun Metalon 

Toyota Metal, and Toyota’s other efforts to maintain material circularity, are a part of the company’s Environmental Challenge 2050, where they endeavour to highlight and promote recycling worldwide. 

As part of this, the company is aiming to establish 30 facilities by 2030 to treat and recycle scrapped vehicles.

Recently, Toyota developed a new method for aluminium recycling that significantly reduces CO2 emissions. In Toyota's Missouri plant, workers use recycled aluminium to build thousands of cylinder heads per day. 

Toyota partnered with Sun Metalon to bring this method to mass production, ensuring equipment durability and wider industry adoption.

Sun Metalon is a leading Metallurgy company in Kawasaki, Japan, that seeks to popularise and refine sustainable metal working processes.

Among the founders of the company was Kazu Nishioka, a former Nippon Steel engineer. Through its partnership with Sun Metalon, Toyota has avoided the risk of downcycling with recycled metal, enhancing safety and quality.

“Contaminated metals, especially metal powder waste, pose risks such as explosions or contaminating the entire melt pool, thereby reducing yield,” says Julian Bobe, Chief Strategy Officer at Sun Metalon 

“Consequently, there's a need for methods to remove contaminants before metals are remelted for new products. A simple analogy would be the transformation enabled by Sun Metalon purification: waste generated in making a car can now be directly used to create another car.” 

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How Sun Metalon Helps Toyota 

Sun Metalon's consistent recycling and refining process has also enabled Toyota to reduce and better control waste and unwanted elements in the metal working process. 

“Our method relies on an electromagnetic field to concentrate energy with exceptional efficiency; we're able to recycle or refine a couple of hundreds of tons of metal by just using the same energy that is meant for residential use,” Julian continues. 

“This unique feature enables us to effectively remove oxygen from the metal, regardless of whether we're recycling or refining.”

He also highlights the benefits Toyota had experienced from a core element of Sun Metalon’s technology, called 'booster' material.

"One of the keys of our technology is the use of a 'booster' material that accelerates recycling and refining while helping with energy efficiency," adds Julian.

"The system is also modular and has a small footprint, allowing us to set the equipment where the waste is being generated, eliminating the need to haul metal waste to a central location."

Ultimately, Toyota remains a beacon of conservation, with a practical, innovative and environmentally-friendly approach to its materials.

As the company embraces its Environmental Challenge 2050, expect to see its circularity and sustainability grow.

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