Greening garages

How maintenance shops are deriving savings and benefits from becoming environmentally responsible


Vehicle maintenance operations are becoming more environmentally conscious. Along with using more fuel-efficient and less polluting vehicles, green initiatives are being instituted to embrace environmentally-friendlier architecture, supplies and attitudes. This includes all kinds of activities.

Shops are establishing green policies to change to the behavior and attitudes of workers; ensuring that hazardous materials are properly used, stored and disposed; using biodegradable cleaners for spills; keeping parking lots and service bays clean to prevent toxic waste from getting into storm drains; recycling fluids and wastes; taking extra precautions to prevent storage receptacles from leaking hazardous materials; making changes to save water and use energy more wisely; upgrading or building new facilities using green construction to create structures using processes that are more resource-efficient throughout a building’s lifecycle; and much more. Here is a look at what some organizations are doing.

Advanced Maintenance, Wilmington, NC — Since its founding in 2000, this full-service fleet maintenance company “has had a recycle and reuse effort that is taught from the top of our company down to our mechanics that are on the front line,” says chief operating officer Chris P. Holman. “We reclaim all fluids and dispose of them through a program with Safety-Kleen. We reuse uncontaminated antifreeze and refrigerant products.”

All aerosol products used are non-chlorinated. Any repair parts that don’t have a core are separated by type of metal and recycled. Oil mats are also recycled.

“We make a clean profit from our waste,” Holman says, “which helps us keep our costs down, allowing us to pass along lower pricing to our customers without sacrificing quality.

“Being green is a no brainer. Why throw out something when you can make money from it or use it again. The key is teaching all who come in contact with products, the benefits and the need to follow proper recycle and waste procedures.”

Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) — More than four year ago, environmental engineer Robert Trapani joined the ADOT and was charged with incorporating environmentally-friendly best management green shop measures into the agency’s fleet vehicle service and repair shops.

At the core of this green effort is the Equipment Services Best Management Practice (BMP) Manual, conceived to reduce pollution and improve and enhance operational capabilities in an environmentally-sensitive manner. The manual is readily accessible to all technicians on the shop floor and on desktop computers.

“Most regulations tell you what you have to do to be in compliance, but they don’t explain how to do it,” says Trapani. “ADOT’s best management practices are proven shop floor guidelines and methods that have helped us not only get into compliance and stay there, but moved our shops to the next level by changing from pollution-generating behaviors to pollution-prevention behaviors.”

Among the numerous matters addressed in the BMP Manual:

Prescribed methods for handling and disposing and recycling of waste materials such as used oil, oil filters, coolant, tires, scrap metal and batteries.

Using water-based parts cleaning and brake washers in place of spray solvents.

Having a fully enclosed waste transfer system for waste liquids.

Providing secondary containment for hazardous materials storage indoors and outdoors away from storm and sanitary sewer drains.

Making emergency spill kits available in service bays and chemical storage areas.

Using drip pans in outside areas to control fluid leakage under vehicles.

Having no open drains or sealed floor drains that lead to storm drains and sanitary sewers.

Prohibiting vehicle washing, or sending vehicles to a commercial washing facility with a closed loop water recycling system.

Posting “Do Not Discharge Chemicals Down Sink or Drain” warning signs above shop sinks.

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