Automotive Waste Management: What Automotive Businesses Can Do to Reduce Toxic Waste

Whether you’re managing an automotive business or an auto repair shop, focusing on waste reduction activities offers several benefits. These include addressing the rising cost of raw materials, reducing disposal charges and harmful waste treatment, and increasing the sustainability efforts of your business. But to attain these amazing benefits, a business should know the right practices to improve waste management of their entire operations.  

Businesses operating in the automotive industry are one of the great contributors to hazardous environmental wastes. These include paint, coolants, machine lubricants, plastics, scrap metals, and solvent and aqueous cleaning systems. These products contain toxic chemicals that lead to adverse environmental impacts and pose risks to employee’s physical health.

Environmental groups offer waste reduction opportunities to businesses in automotive manufacturing. Most of these measures involve pollution prevention techniques to produce waste with lesser impacts on the workplace and environment. So if you’re planning to start a business in the automotive industry, here are ways to reduce harmful wastes in your business and promote sustainability efforts.

Closed-loop recycling

This technique focuses on self-sufficient recycling techniques by using recyclable products that retain their quality during the entire recycling process. Most car manufacturers prefer this technique since they can always recycle a product back into its old form. One example are luxury automakers (e.g., BMW) with closed-loop recycling programs that acquire end-of-life vehicles from their former users.

Although many of these programs exist today, not everyone is actively participating. The burden often lies on the car owner, where they have contact and find the collection center, thus resulting in customer inconvenience. One way to increase the collection of end-of-life vehicles is to offer appealing incentives for car users to encourage them to return their beat-up vehicles. This way, car manufacturers can save up on materials by turning them into usable components.

According to the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), vehicles are the most recycled products in the U.S., with more than 12 million processed automobiles annually. In fact, the automotive recycling industry takes the 16th spot as the largest industry in the U.S. with an estimated value of $32 billion each year. Most of the recyclable products acquired from vehicles include paper, aluminum cans, glass, steel cans, and retired vehicles.

In a report by the World Economic Forum, closed-loop recycling can minimize energy use by 75%. This means automotive businesses can acquire more savings in terms of re-manufacturing and maximize the potential value of old vehicles.

Expand product usage

Automakers can promote replacement, refurbishment, and product recycling programs by engaging directly with their clients. Improving consumer contact will provide opportunities for automakers to enhance profit margins, brand loyalty, and customer engagement.

One of the main reasons for the increasing levels of automotive waste in the U.S. waste stream is the high rate of car replacements. Most drivers opt to replace their cars after six years instead of maximizing their lifespan, which can go high as 13 years.

Extending the lifespan of car components focuses on designing automobile parts to be reusable, recyclable, and manufacturable. By combining these elements into the initial manufacturing and product design, car manufacturers can receive better returns in terms of minimizing re-manufacturing costs. Although this strategy requires research investments, it can yield massive benefits in reducing production expenses.

Hazardous waste reduction

Governments strongly regulate the use of petroleum solvents in repair shops because of their health and environmental impacts. Using solvents for cleaning vehicle parts can lead to worker health, environmental, and fire liabilities in auto businesses. To prevent the use of these hazardous chemicals, it is best to switch to aqueous cleaners, a nonflammable product with less than 5% of volatile organic compounds. They can eliminate dirt through soap action, agitation, and heat.

When handling chemical spills, use proper tools such as a dustpan, squeegee, or other tools that can easily retrieve oil and return it to the oil container. Using absorbent supplies will only lead to oily waste that further contaminates bodies of water and landfills.

Vehicle maintenance centers should also ensure worker safety and proper floor cleanup. These include managing spilled materials and disposing of oil and metal parts. When it comes to oil use or disposal, auto shops can reduce used oils through an extensive re-refining process to eliminate contaminants. Doing this can minimize used oil production and total operating costs.

The benefits and suitability of your waste management practices depend on the size and nature of your business as well as its application scale. You can check with local environmental guidelines to adopt a proper framework for handling toxic waste. In the end, improving the business reputation by promoting an environmentally responsible image can go a long way in creating a comfortable and safer workplace.

Meta title: Waste Management and Recycling Strategies in the Automotive Industry
meta desc: Automotive components are the most recycled products in the U.S. Learn how you can extend your eco-friendly initiatives by following these waste management strategies in your auto business.

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