Pollution Prevention: Shop Solutions that Save Money - Service Department
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Pollution Prevention: Shop Solutions that Save Money

By Joanne Costin

Article Date: 01-01-2009
Copyright(C) 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Dealers would be well served - and ahead of the curve - to borrow methods from this California contractor service shop.


Is there money waiting to be found in your shop? From used oil and antifreeze to solvents, batteries and tires, maintenance shops are big contributors to a dealership’s waste stream. Removing those wastes drains the bottom line. A dealer will pay thousands of dollars annually to remove and recycle waste oil, hydraulic fluid and coolant. And they pay hundreds of dollars monthly to have solvent parts washers serviced.

When disposal translates into an expense, reducing waste translates into cost savings, and that’s the idea behind a California program that shows business owners how to reduce shop waste to lower operating costs and improve the environment. While originally targeting auto shops, the Pollution Prevention (P2) Model Shop Program, administered by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has been adopted by of a number of municipal fleets, as well as companies like Watsonville, Calif.-based Granite Construction, several California locations of Waste Management and San Leandro, Calif.-based Peterson Power. All of these companies have received recognition as P2 Model Shops.

“We have reduced significantly things that we would otherwise have a third party haul away without compromising the efficiency of our day-to-day operation,” said Matt Pedroni, equipment manager at Granite Construction’s Stockton-Calif.-based maintenance facility. “That was the big thing, because we still need to do what we need to do as a business.” The three-bay maintenance facility of Granite services a fleet of more than 250 machines, trucks and automobiles within a 100-mile radius. Pedroni believes the program successfully highlights opportunities that make sense for business, while also improving the environment.


Reduce the Quantity of Hazardous Materials
The DTSC (www.dtsc.ca.gov/PollutionPrevention) provides a convenient one-stop shop for training tools, case studies, and resources to help businesses institute profitable green initiatives in their shops. Among their recommendations: A hazardous materials inventory that can help reduce the quantity of hazardous materials in your shop. An inventory list will reveal where you might be overstocking on hazardous materials so you can then cut back or eliminate items you don’t need. Simple solutions such as rotating containers so that older materials are used first, can keep unused hazardous materials from requiring disposal. With lower levels of hazardous materials, owners may be able to reduce permit fees.

DTSC P2 Model Shop guidelines call for covered storage areas to protect hazardous materials from exposure to the sun and rain. Rainwater can increase waste volumes and contaminate raw materials. Exposure to sunlight can alter the characteristics of hazardous materials or raise temperatures inside sealed containers to dangerous levels. Secondary containment should be used to prevent spill runoff and minimize contamination of soil and water.

Environmentally Friendly Clean-Up Methods
Natalie Marcanio, pollution prevention specialist for the DTSC, suggests some very simple, easy-to-implement solutions such as the use of hydrophobic mops for cleanups. The mops pick up only oil, which can then be wrung out and added to used oil bins. Granite Construction’s Stockton facility implemented usage of the mops and has saved money by switching from absorbents, which have a higher cost and generate considerably more waste that needs to be hauled. (See 4 Step Dry Clean Up Method on p. 92) Coating shop floors with an epoxy finish is also recommended to speed the clean-up process. Epoxy coatings provide an impermeable seal to protect the concrete and the underlying ground water from the effects of liquid pollutants.

An Effective Substitute for Aerosols
Another simple change outlined in the program and implemented by Granite Construction is switching from traditional aerosol containers to refillable metal containers. The new containers permit bulk purchasing of commonly used products such as WD-40 and eliminate the waste created by empty aerosol cans, which contain 10 to 15 percent propellant. Propellants such as carbon dioxide, propane and butane are greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Aqueous Parts Cleaners
Parts cleaners represent another area of the shop where environmentally friendly practices can generate savings. While solvent cleaners quickly dissolve oil, grease, dirt and lubricants, they raise significant environmental and health concerns. Solvents contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to smog formation and may be toxic when inhaled. In some areas of the country, including parts of California, solvent use has already been restricted in parts cleaning operations.

Aqueous cleaners are nonflammable, water-based solutions that contain little or no VOCs. Aqueous cleaners rely on heat, agitation and soap action to break dirt into smaller particles. Marcanio says aqueous parts cleaners have been well received by shops in California. There are several types of aqueous cleaning units to choose from, including sink top units, spray cabinets, immersion units and ultrasonic units.

“We recommend that you work with a vender to put it in your shop with a demonstration period,” said Marcanio. “Talking to the employees and technicians helps get buy-in,” adds Marcanio. “Sometimes the cleaning solutions need to be refined to meet the needs of your operation and the vendor can work with you on that.”

Brent Hoberg, district manager for KPA, an environmental, health, and safety compliance consultant firm serving more than 3,000 (primarily automotive) dealerships nationwide, says one of the first things he asks clients about is parts washing. “We ask how many parts washers they have and how they are using them,” said Hoberg. “Usually they are paying several hundred dollars to service them at an eight-to-10-week interval.”

Parts Washing Tips
Hoberg often finds that companies may not need all the parts washers they have, or at the very least, can extend the service interval to generate some cost savings. Labor savings generated from aqueous spray cabinets and ultrasonic units may also help offset capital costs and result in shorter payback periods. Solutions should only be changed when they no longer adequately clean parts. Don’t change the solution on a schedule basis, or when the solution looks dirty.

Making Money from Oil
A California rebate program offered through the California Integrated Waste Management Board program offers a rebate of 16 cents per gallon, paid quarterly, to companies that recycle oil.

“For facilities that use an average of 1,000 gallons per quarter that amounts to $1,920 per year,” said Hoberg. Granite Construction currently takes advantage of the program. Dealers in other states should look into similar programs.

In many areas of the country, used oil is being converted to heat for a tremendous payback.

Installing a waste oil heating system has the added benefit of reducing the liability of disposing waste oil, in addition to providing heat for the maintenance facility. However, it must be noted that waste oil heating is not allowed in California and individual state regulations must be checked and adhered to.

Used oil filters filled with old oil and sludge may be classified as hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Oil filters that are not recycled have the potential to be discarded into landfills where the filters’ residual oil will find their way into ground and drinking water supplies. One gallon of oil can contaminate up to 1 million gallons of fresh water.

Estimates suggest that over 400 million used oil filters are improperly disposed of each year.

Hoberg recommends a filter crushing system to reduce the volume of filters and to remove as much as 12 to 16 ounces of oil that remain when filters are removed from the equipment.

In addition to saving more oil, the capacity of a 50-gallon container increases from 250 to 650 filters when a crusher is used, so hauling costs are reduced.

Fleet managers can also take a role in reducing the amount of lube oil waste.

“Granite Construction utilizes a detailed oil analysis program, which allows us to extend oil change intervals and reduce the amount of oil we have to dispose,” said Pedroni. In addition, using less oil significantly reduces costs.

A recent study sponsored by the DTSC examined motor oil life in a variety of vehicles, ranging from passenger cars to large diesel buses and trucks over a two-year period. The study provides further evidence that motor oil analysis, higher quality motor oils and more efficient filters can lead to significant cost savings. Detailed findings of the study can be found on the DTSC Web site. (Please visit http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/TechnologyDevelopment/OPPTD_FLY_High-Efficiency-Oil-Filters.cfm.)

Reusable oil filters also can pay for themselves over a period of one to three years, depending on the frequency of oil changes. Reusable filters are washed in a parts washer. In a case study for the P2 program, Barton Sand and Gravel saved $4,100 over two years by installing reusable oil filters on 40 of its trucks.

Antifreeze Recycling
Antifreeze is toxic to humans and animals. Waste antifreeze contains heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and chromium in high enough levels to potentially make it a regulated hazardous waste. Most states strictly regulate antifreeze disposal. The primary ingredient in antifreeze is ethylene glycol, which is produced from natural gas, a nonrenewable resource. During the recycling process, contaminants such as emulsified oils and heavy metals must be removed either by filtration, distillation, reverse osmosis, or ion exchange. Then, the antifreeze properties must be restored with additives.

There are three options for antifreeze recycling: (1) an on-site unit, which is more appropriate for higher volumes, (2) a mobile recycling service, where a van or truck equipped with a recycling unit visits the facility and recycles waste antifreeze on-site, or (3) offsite recycling, where antifreeze from your facility is transported to a recycling center. Information on the P2 Model Shop Web site can help dealers determine the best option for their operation.

Selecting a Hauler
Even if you hire someone to haul away your waste, under federal and many state laws, you remain strictly liable for waste and will suffer the consequences if your transporter allows the waste to spill, fails to maintain necessary records, or delivers the waste to an unauthorized or illegal location. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly research your haulers.

“You should be able to call your regulatory agency to check on a hauler’s compliance record,” said Marcanio. Select hazardous waste haulers who are registered with the state. You can also ask to visit their facilities and ask for references from other clients.

Training shop employees on the proper procedures for handling waste and hazardous materials is critical. “All of this stuff is only as good as the technicians that are going to carry it out,” said Marcanio. “It needs to be reinforced.”

Skepticism turns into belief when shop employees can see that environmentally friendly options such as a hydrophobic mop and aqueous cleaning agents really do work. Marcanio believes that when technicians buy in to a program they take more pride in what they are doing.

When Hoberg meets with dealer clients, he senses the frustration of businesses struggling to comply with increasingly strict environmental regulation. However, as the awareness and availability of green options increase, he believes that in the long run these options will make businesses more productive and efficient.

“Our primary job is to create a safety culture and to help management realize that a clean and safe work environment makes everybody more productive.”

Marcanio concurs that taking a more proactive approach to the environmental impact of your business serves to better prepare you for dealing with next year’s regulations. “Regulations are not getting less strict, and there is more focus on being green now,” said Marcanio.

Granite Construction required just a few small changes to become a P2 Model shop, and now all 13 shops are P2-certified.

“I think most dealers would find that they are closer than they think,” said Pedroni. As dealers struggle to weather the current economic downturn, it’s rewarding to know there’s an economic payback for your efforts to create a greener shop.


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