If you have ever wondered if the operations of your auto repair provider are green, please rest easy. The reason you can relax is that the motivation to be green is simple: money. In just about the entire auto repair shop industry there are opportunities to make cash or reduce costs in waste by becoming environmentally conscious.
Let’s start with the building block of the repair shop, the oil and filter change. This is traditionally the loss leader of the industry. It’s what every motorist needs on a regular basis and it’s common for facilities to keep the prices down so you’re motivated to bring your car in and have its underbelly examined for potential sales opportunities. But even if you don’t get anything else done, the auto repair shop may net something beyond the profit from the oil change.
For about thirty years, shops have heated their work areas with the used oil that is drained during oil changes. Over the years the technology of waste oil heaters has increased the safety and decreased the environmental impact of burning used oil. Oil filters can also be crushed to extract the last bit of oil and to reduce their density for easier recycling of the metal. If a shop does not heat with waste oil it may be paid for the dirty oil depending on market conditions.
Other fluids that can be burned in these heaters are transmission fluid, various hydraulic fluids and solvent from the shop’s parts cleaner depending on the volatility and contaminants in the product. Antifreeze which can’t be burned as fuel is recycled. Mobil services recycle the coolant on site removing contaminants, adding additives and virgin antifreeze to bring it up to the correct strength. This recycled product can then be sold again depending on the demands of the specific car manufacturer.
Next let’s move on to the hard stuff- metal that is. An auto repair shop is often knee deep in spent lead from batteries, aluminum and copper from radiators, and steel from assorted sources like front end parts, exhaust systems and steering gears. For a long time batteries did not carry a core charge which meant the shop pocketed any value derived from the old battery. Now with each battery purchased for resale the supplier charges a core charge which means the installer loses the value of the core if he does not return the old battery to the supplier. This is another example of how the shop is motivated by economics to be green.
Core charges are a good segue into considering rebuilt parts. The use of rebuilt or re-manufactured auto parts is a win/win proposition for the green conscious consumer of auto repairs. Not only are the rebuilt parts cheaper and often carry a warranty similar to new parts, but they are the most environmentally responsible approach to the repair. For example, a starter or alternator that fails is sent back to the plant to be refurbished and will eventually restock the supplier’s shelf with very little added to its environmental footprint in the process.
The other hard metals mentioned get recycled through the forces of the market place. There are very few shops that don’t have either professional recyclers calling on them on a regular basis or, at the bottom of the food chain, individuals in pick-up trucks willing to take what’s left. The energetic or, some might say frugal, shop owner may also take a load of assorted metal to a salvage yard on his own thus cutting out the recycler. Whether it’s the consumer or the auto repair shop, in this industry there is definitely an emphasis on green.