Jul 17, 2023

From Shirts to Insulators: Recycled Honda Uniforms Find New Utility in Vehicles

Honda associates put a lot into the products they make, now including the shirts right off their backs. Honda is advancing a recycling initiative that takes uniforms worn by associates at its U.S. manufacturing and R&D facilities and transforms them into sound-absorbing insulation for use in Honda and Acura automobiles. This program diverts approximately 45,000 pounds of uniforms from reaching landfills each month as Honda works toward its commitment to use 100% sustainable materials in its products in the future. Watch a video of the uniform recycling process at

Honda has established a global "Triple Action to Zero" approach, with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality for all products and corporate activities, use of 100% clean energy and resource circulation (100% sustainable materials), by 2050. Achieving that goal – which targets zero environmental impact – will require innovative solutions, including how Honda sources materials for new products by recycling and reusing material from end-of-life vehicles and Honda operations.

"To achieve our Triple Zero goal of 100% sustainable material use, we need to take every possible opportunity to recycle materials at end of life for reuse in our products, thereby minimizing our utilization of virgin materials," said Negar Gilsinger, manager of Resource Circulation for American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "By maximizing end-of-life material recycling, we are giving our uniforms a second life in Honda and Acura vehicles."

The Honda uniform recycling program leverages cross-industry collaboration between Honda and its uniform suppliers Aramark and Cintas Corporation, as well as insulation supplier UGN Automotive and textile recycler Leigh Fibers. Uniforms from Honda production and R&D facilities in Alabama, Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio are recycled and reused in five different insulator parts on all nine Honda and four Acura models made in North America. In the future, Honda plans to expand the uniform recycling program to other facilities in North America.

"Collaborating with Honda suppliers in the uniform recycling program has brought great value to our supply chain sustainability efforts," said Rob Long, senior procurement specialist with Honda North American Indirect Procurement. "As Honda works to advance sustainability, we appreciate our suppliers' efforts to innovate their business operations to reduce waste and give new life to our Honda uniforms."

More than 380,000 pounds of uniforms have been recycled since the program launched at the end of 2021. The uniforms Honda associates wear have always been an important part of the company's culture and success, symbolizing Honda's "One Team" approach, which promotes collaboration and the understanding that the ideas of all associates are valued.

Transforming Uniforms into Insulation Honda associate uniforms that are cleaned by uniform suppliers – Aramark, at Honda Indiana and Ohio facilities, and Cintas Corporation, at Alabama and North Carolina facilities – are evaluated after washing. If the uniforms are undamaged, they are sent back to associates to wear. When uniforms are designated for reuse in Honda and Acura vehicles, they are baled and sent to Leigh Fibers, which specializes in reprocessing and custom-blending fiber-based materials.

At Leigh Fibers' facility, the uniforms are shredded into material that meets the required fiber grade for use as vehicle insulators. Zippers and buttons from the uniforms are first extracted and collected so that no metal or plastic goes through the shredding process. Then the material gets blended into mixed fibers and tested to ensure the fiber material meets the fiber length requirements. The newly reprocessed fibers are then packaged and delivered to insulation supplier UGN.

UGN blends, consolidates and trims the fibers into material that is molded into insulation and returned to Honda auto manufacturing plants for new vehicle production. Typically, UGN creates insulation from post-industrial fibers, which are sourced from textile companies, and polyester sourced from recycled water bottles. The uniform recycling program marks the first time Honda and UGN are using post-consumer textile waste for sustainable insulation material.

"It is part of UGN's history and culture to maximize recycled content in our parts, reduce landfill by recycling our own by-products, and promote circular, mono-material technologies that enable end-of-life vehicle recycling," said Pranav Singh, director of Purchasing & Packaging for UGN Automotive. "Reusing Honda uniforms contributes to these efforts by increasing the amount of recycled materials available for insulators and opens the door to other post-consumer textile waste projects."

Expanding Recycled Materials in Vehicles The uniform recycling program builds on Honda's longstanding commitment to reduce waste and incorporate higher recycled content in Honda and Acura vehicles. This includes working with suppliers to transform post-industrial textile scrap, such as fibers from denim, into vehicle insulation/absorption material. In collaboration with UGN, Honda annually reuses approximately 2,800 tons of recycled post-industrial textile waste – equivalent to 5.6 million pairs of jeans – and 3,000 tons of post-consumer PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles – equivalent to 6 million water bottles – for vehicle sound-absorbing insulation.

Other approaches to using sustainable materials in Honda and Acura vehicles have included soybean-based foam for vehicle headrests, recycled plastic water bottles and recycled Honda car bumpers for wheel liners, plant-based material for the seat fabric in the 2019 Acura RDX and Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid vehicle, and processed volcanic rocks for the roof liner in the 2003 Honda Element.

To learn more about Honda's Triple Action to Zero approach and the concept of resource circulation, read Our Perspective, "We Have Set a Great Big Goal: Nothing."

About Honda's Commitment to the Environment Honda is working toward its global goal of zero environmental impact by 2050 through its "Triple Action to Zero" approach, including achieving carbon neutrality for all products and corporate activities, 100% utilization of renewable energy, and resource circulation, utilizing 100% sustainable materials by reprocessing products back to raw materials and reusing those materials in the creation of new products. Toward this goal, Honda will strive to make battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles represent 100% of auto sales in the U.S. and globally by 2040.

To reduce the environmental impact of its business operations, Honda also is offsetting CO2 emissions from its North American manufacturing operations through long-term virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs) for renewable wind and solar power that seek to cover more than 60% of the electricity Honda uses in North America. Honda also promotes environmentally responsible business practices with its suppliers and retail dealer partners across North America.

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Transforming Uniforms into InsulationExpanding Recycled Materials in VehiclesOur PerspectiveAbout Honda's Commitment to the Environment