Mississippi is home to several large manufacturing plants that employee many of its citizens. One newer plant, however, stands out from the rest in its environmental efforts. While all manufacturers are required to abide by state regulations, the Toyota Mississippi has gone above and beyond to reach a goal of being sustainable and environmentally friendly in keeping with corporate goals. When built in 2011, the Blue Springs plant was set apart to be an eco-friendly model plant, and its efforts are ongoing.
Sean McCarthy is one of two senior environmental specialists who work for the plant about 14 miles west of Tupelo, one of the larger cities in North Mississippi. His main job is to keep the plant in compliance with state regulations. He explained some of the ways that the Blue Springs plant is working toward Toyota’s environmental goals.
“We have some of the newest technology which helps us a lot,” McCarthy said. “For example, our painting process has changed. Instead of the old method which would involve spraying on a primer then sending the car through an oven to bake it on, then spraying color then baking again, we instead use a water-based paint applied in a continuous burst and then send the car through a heated flash zone which only has to heat up to 200 degrees. This saves a lot of energy since we don’t have to use as much heat and we don’t have to operate two ovens.”
McCarthy explained that the plant, which employs 1,740 workers and produced 157,000 vehicles in 2019, is always looking for opportunities to reduce its emissions and energy usage. One way is through eliminating “non-production energy.” This means powering down all non-essential equipment during off shifts in order to avoid wasting resources. As a company, Toyota strives to be zero waste at all of its facilities, meaning plants do not normally send their waste to landfills. In Mississippi, however, due to a county ordinance Toyota is required to send waste that can’t be recycled on site to the local landfill. Despite this, the plant attempts to recycle as much as it can.