Traditional parts-cleaning solvents are hazardous, but solvent service companies such as Safety-Kleen and Crystal Clean reduce the equipment owners' risk in using them. RSC in East Chicago relies on Crystal Clean, for example, to remove solvent when it is no longer effective (about every eight weeks) and supply fresh solvent to its parts-cleaning stations.
There are alternatives to hazardous chemicals that can reduce the cost of cleaning parts. Biodegradable soaps can effectively clean parts when used in hot-water washing cabinets that are much like automatic dishwashers. Brubacher was inspired by the environmental simplicity of such a system.
“Rich (Equipment Manager Rich Deeds) looked at some of the systems out there and we thought we could make one like it,” says Brubacher. “Now we have a hot-water and soap solution parts washer that we fabricated here in our weld shop.”
The system eliminates release of organic compounds to the air as the solvent evaporates, and removes the environmental liability from the waste stream. Of course, turning over management of traditional parts washers to a permitted transporter and treatment facility limits the equipment operation's environmental risk, but cleaning parts with non-hazardous methods reduces the operation's environmental footprint, and as Brubacher found it can save money.
Firms that continue to use traditional parts cleaners should use self-contained recirculating solvent sinks, and contract with a solvent service company to take used solvent and maintain the sink. Precleaning can minimize the waste stream. Rinse with old solvent, for example, and then clean with a minimal amount of fresh. Steam cleaners, heat baths, or high-pressure washing units can preclean parts without solvent use. And parts can be precleaned with dry rags or brushes to reduce solvent contamination.
Install a drip rack over cleaning tanks to confine drips. Keep solvent containers sealed when possible to prevent emissions.
“If you leave a drum of used solvent open and it evaporates, that's considered illegal treatment and an EPA inspector that discovers it will cite you,” warns Buckner.
Tires are neither listed nor characteristic hazardous waste, yet most states have tire-dumping regulations. Suppliers usually pick up a used tire for every new one they sell, although you may have to request the service.
One of the best ways to reduce tire waste is to get more life out of tires. Maintain inflation pressure meticulously, and clear jobsites of debris to preserve tire carcasses for retreading. An estimated seven gallons of oil go into the material to retread a truck tire, compared to 22 gallons required to manufacture a new tire. And retreading requires about 70 percent less energy than manufacturing new tires.
Off-road tires can be retreaded. Bandag's new Continuum precure retreading materials save energy in the process, and are being applied by a growing number of off-road-tire retread specialists.
You are ultimately responsible for making sure your hazardous materials are disposed of properly. When you hire a hauler, you're trusting the firm to handle the waste according to the law. Make sure the company has an EPA identification number and procedures in place not only to properly recycle or dispose of the waste, but also to manage the necessary record keeping.
“We've pretty much partnered with Crystal Clean, a waste-handling company on the RSC preferred supplier list,” says Dave Jillson, manager of shop services for RSC East Chicago. “They test every barrel of waste that leaves here.”
Any reduction in waste generated works to reduce an equipment operation's risk and costs. RSC East Chicago reduced its environmental impact as part of a larger operations makeover that dramatically reduced costs and increased efficiency. The process started with a sorting of all the services the branch offered.
“In the sorting process, we go through the entire facility systematically looking at everything that's there to decide if it's actually something we need; and if we do need it, we find a place for it, organize it, store it properly, and integrate it into our work processes,” says Chuck Hersey, general manager at large for RSC's Region 8. He is describing the start of a management process called 5S, which is being implemented at all RSC branches. “If it's not something we need then it goes in the dumpster. A clean and organized facility is an end result, but it's not the main reason for doing it.”
Sorting this way digs into and refines an organization's business.
“We're in an industry where you can find yourself doing things because, 'we've always done it this way,' and we challenged every step in our process — opened it up for each of the mechanics and other employees to suggest ways to improve our work flows,” says Marlow-Kellemen. “We eliminated a lot of soft-waste and hard-cost waste. It really opened our eyes to not just the bottom-line efficiency defining how much this group of people can get done, but we also had dumpsters full of stuff that was truly unnecessary. It gave us a tangible picture of how much opportunity we have not just to improve our processes, but also to reduce raw-material waste.”
In the end, reduced environmental impact pays off in terms much larger than financial.
“We want to be known as a company that cares about the environment,” says Myron Brubacher. “The Brubacher Excavating leadership — my brother and I are the shareholders — know that God created this Earth and we need to be good stewards of the resources He has entrusted us with.”
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