JEREMY Clarkson might argue but there seems no denying the impact of gas guzzling cars on our environment.

One of the automotive industry’s pioneers in alternative technology, Japanese car manufacturer Toyota, has long been looking at ways to power its vehicles in efficient and environmentally friendly ways.

Just last week the Leader reported that Toyota had come top in an industry-wide survey by Clean Green Cars.

The company recently announced that the engine for its latest innovative model, the new hybrid Auris, would be built at its plant on Deeside.

However, it is not just the engines they are building there that are helping to minimise harm to the environment; the Deeside plant itself is focusing on ways to reduce the impact of production.

In the light and spacious foyer between the reception area and the factory proper the walls are lined with graphs and charts tracking the progress of environmental initiatives.

The plant, which employs some 540 people, has been ‘zero to landfill’ since 2003 and has been ‘zero to incineration’ for the past two years.

Literally everything is recycled – cardboard, wood, plastics, etc, but also aluminium swarf (the metal shavings from the casting process) and even paint.

One tonne of plastic cups from the factory are recycled each year.

Some of the water used as a coolant in making compressed air is now collected rainwater from the roof of the factory.

In the long term there is a plan to construct a huge lagoon which will enable the plant to use nothing but collected rainwater for this process. This will be quite an achievement considering that it requires 51,402 cubic metres a year.

Staff are termed ‘members’ and all have been involved in an eco points scheme, asking them to look at ways they can reduce their own carbon footprint – not just in the workplace but at home as well.

They are given a tour of the plant to see what is going on, asked to calculate their own carbon footprint and also to implement a ‘Kaizen’, a way of reducing this footprint.

All around the factory are charts showing what initiatives are in place and how effective they are.

“We track everything and report on it,” explained Ian Kenworthy, section manager for central engineering. “Managers get to know exactly what’s happening in the plant and that can be fed down to the members.

“Members are able to see exactly how much energy is being used and can come up with ideas to reduce it.

“Once these ideas are implemented we track their progress to see how well it is working.

“Money is tight in the industry at the moment so we are looking at innovative ideas that don’t cost a fortune but can help to save energy and reduce waste.”

Such is the drive to reduce energy consumption that two members have been specifically assigned the task of looking at ways to reduce energy wastage in different sections of the plant to ensure things are running as efficiently and with as little impact on the environment as possible.

Under the umbrella of ‘Shokubaryoku’, meaning power of the workplace, simple things such as turning unnecessary lights off and, of course, recycling, are going a long way.

Other initiatives such as tree planting are already in place and allotments for members are also planned for the site.

General manager Richard Kenworthy has worked at the plant since 1991.

He said: “Toyota has always tried to be a good neighbour, therefore no pollution, making sure we always dealt with waste water properly and always working at the best possible level to reduce the amount of waste but very much driven by cost. It used to be about being responsible, now it is a key issue.

“It’s pointless making an engine that’s the best environmentally friendly engine unless it is made in the best environmentally friendly plant.”