Eco-Efficiency and Compliance in Collision RepairPosted 6/25/2007
By Rachael J. Mercer
Eco-efficiency and compliance is a major concern in all industries, particularly in today's world of heightened environmental awareness. There are many regulations for collision industry businesses concerning disposal and recycling of certain items, but there are voluntary steps that you can take in your shop to help protect the environment. Many collision industry repairers are ahead of the game when it comes to recycling materials and preventing waste from entering our landfills and water sources.
Darrell Amberson, AAM, president of Lehman's Garage in Bloomington, Minn., stressed the difference that can be made when shops minimize their paint waste. Amberson has implemented a series of steps that each technician is trained to complete in the painting process and also maintains a set of incentives for technicians who properly complete them.
"We eliminate overspray and waste by using gravity feed spray guns, and we encourage our technicians to hone in on eliminating waste by mixing only the paint they will need," said Jason Rhoades, manager of one of three Perfection One Collision Centers in Ohio. The gravity feed spray guns allow these technicians to paint with less air pressure, and has the advantages of less overspray, less waste and greater control for the painter. Gravity feed spray guns are available from several manufacturers.
Mercury Switch Recycling
Mercury is a natural element that has been used in switches and thermostats to promote electrical conductivity for years, but it can pollute the environment and endanger the health of people exposed to it. Mercury is found in hood, interior and truck convenience lighting assemblies. When cars are headed for the junkyard or even to be recycled, it is imperative that the mercury switches be removed and recycled. Many state governments encourage switch removal, just like the removal of batteries and other fluids, prior to the crushing or shredding of vehicles. Some states require it.
A qualified recycling contractor manages shipping, tracking and recycling of the switches, and also provides participants with leak-proof buckets for the collection of the switches. Each bucket holds around 150 assembly switches and, once full, is picked up by the contractor. Lehman's Garage is one Automotive Service Association (ASA) member that participates in mercury recycling in Minnesota, where this type of recycling is now mandatory.
Air quality is an important part of everyone's environment - whether outside or in. Jennifer Justice-Haley, general manager of two Mercedes-Benz Collision Centers in Ohio, explained how air quality preservation is an important part of her business' eco- efficiency efforts. "We use a custom-built sand-n-vac system in one of our shops. We purchased the unit nearly 15 years ago, and it cost between $3k to $5k. At our second location, we use EuroVac, which is a standard, state-of-the-art system for dust removal," she said.
EuroVac is a dust and fume extraction system that features products for homes and businesses. Airpro Air Cleaning Professionals also feature a system designed specifically for auto body repair shops involved in sanding and grinding.
"Our Fume-a-Gator system extracts welding fumes while a technician is welding at our weld site. This system was purchased from Air Cleaning Technologies," said Justice-Haley. Air Cleaning Technologies manufactures several fume and exhaust ventilation solutions, and specializes in 100 percent source capture systems as the only recommended method for effective ventilation. For more information on Air Cleaning Technologies, visit its Web site at < www.aircleaningtech.net.
To find out about other equipment, please visit www.ASAUltimateBuyersGuide.com.
Other Recycling Items
Collision shops are full of items that can be recycled - just like our homes and any other business. Basic items that can be recycled include paper waste. Take the time to eliminate this waste by placing a recycling bin in your office. Be sure all staples and paper clips are removed, and do not forget to include the shredded paper remnants from your sensitive documents - they can be recycled, too. "Of course, we recycle our paper products," said Amberson. This is one area that can often be overlooked because of its simplicity.
Additionally, cardboard from packaging can be recycled. Encourage your technicians to contribute to the cardboard recycling efforts when unpacking any parts that come in prepackaged units. Cardboard packaging can be picked up by some local government agencies or by your local recycler. Contact your local government to see if pickup can be arranged through them. In addition, talk with your local parts provider to acquire reusable packaging items or to find ways to reduce the amount of packaging you receive with each purchase.
"We recycle sheet metal and other metal parts ourselves," said Jason Rhoades. "We take our items to a recycler once a week, since there are many metal scavengers in our area looking to make money. This way, we are sure that the recycler actually ends up with our recyclables and we can control the process."
Fluids from vehicles, such as antifreeze and cleaning solvents, can become part of the wastewater pollution problem that can affect water sources. Vehicle fluids such as windshield washer fluid, oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid and others should be removed from a vehicle prior to its transport to a recycling facility. Auto body repairers should not rely on others to recycle these fluids, but rather, take responsibility for those fluids while they are still in their shop. One efficient solution for unused windshield washer fluid is to bottle it and give it to your customers, allowing them to become part of the recycling process.
Ways to Remain Eco-Efficient
Yet another overlooked area of energy efficiency is found in the thermostat regulation at your shop. Using a digital thermostat (be sure to recycle the old mercury one) with a programmable setting will enable you to keep your business comfortable during the day without wasting energy at night. "During the winter, we drop the temperature in our shop to between 50 and 60 degrees," said Rhoades. "This prevents wasted energy at night." He explained that during the summer, the bay doors remain open and the shop is cooled with hydrocoil fans. He mentioned another simple step in conserving energy. "If we're not using a compressor or any other electrical item, we make sure it's turned off or unplugged," he said.
Most importantly, it is essential to look around your business for creative ways to be environmentally responsible. Check your dumpster just before it gets emptied each week. If you find items that could or should have been recycled, be sure to communicate with your staff about your expectations and their role in preserving our environment. Revolutionary processes for recycling are not necessary for you and your business to make a difference. Instead, taking recycling, reducing and reusing one "r" at a time will make the biggest difference.
Web Sites Serve as Good Resources for Eco-Efficiency
Looking for information on recycling compliance and improved energy efficiency? Visit these Web sites:
Rachael J. Mercer is a freelance writer based in Moultrie, Ga. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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