Thursday, 02 May 2019 14:20

Common Mistakes Body Shops Make When Recycling & Staying Green

Written by
Wade Scheel, director of governmental affairs at Stericycle Environmental Solutions, provides related education and training services to body shop owners striving to be compliant and green. Wade Scheel, director of governmental affairs at Stericycle Environmental Solutions, provides related education and training services to body shop owners striving to be compliant and green.


Wade Scheel, director of governmental affairs at Stericycle Environmental Solutions, has been working at the 30-year-old compliance company for 11 years and has three decades of industry experience.


Stericycle specializes in collecting and disposing regulated substances, such as medical waste and sharps, pharmaceuticals, hazardous waste, and providing services for recalled and expired goods. It also provides related education and training services for many companies, including collision repair shops.


Headquartered in Lake Forest, IL, with many more bases of operation around the world, Stericycle maintains toxic waste incinerators in Utah and North Carolina.


Q: What are the most common slip-ups that body shops encounter when it comes to disposing hazardous waste and recycling?


A: A couple common mistakes body shops make that fall into the "low hanging fruit" category for inspectors come immediately to mind. One of the very first things that any business, including a body shop, [does] is identify all of the waste that's regulated and considered hazardous with special disposal requirements or can be recycled. Those items that can go into the trash and those that don't---that's where many problems begin. That's one of the first things that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says when it comes to hazardous waste, which is to determine what is hazardous and what isn't. Shops assume it's just trash that can go in the dumpster, and in many cases, they're wrong.


The other common error that many shops make is not putting items in the [right] containers and not carefully labeling them. For example, solvent-contaminated rags need to be stored in a secure container and labeled appropriately. Improper storing and labeling are two things that inspectors find more often than any other violations, as well as throwing things in their dumpsters that can't go there because it can't be in the normal waste stream.


Q: Many MSOs have an individual or a department that handles hazardous waste and recycling. But for the smaller independent shops, might it be a little more difficult to achieve this due to time constraints or financial considerations?


A: Yes, but in the end the regulations are identical for big chains and small independent shops. Each state has its own set of regulations, so we tell shops that one of their first steps is to identify those requirements that pertain to what they're throwing out. They need to determine what things can be recycled and those that can go into the trash bin. They must know what is identified as hazardous waste at both the state level and what EPA says.


The next step is to design a program around how these items are going to be collected and setting up agreements or contracts with service providers. Many of the waste companies out there are excellent in helping shops with this process, including making recommendations on what they can accept or vice versa.


There are also a lot of consultants out there whose only job is to make sure that shops adhere to the regulations. They will also give you guidance about special waste streams such as anti-freezes, waste oils, solvents waste, filters, and aerosols that can't ever go in the trash. The problems arise when there is a lack of communication within a shop or when their disposal/recycling program isn't clear in one way or another.


Q: Is it smart to make one of your techs, estimators or managers your gatekeeper and in-house expert when it comes to recycling and hazardous waste disposal?


A: Yes, we always suggest that shops should centralize their efforts by designating one person to coordinate every aspect of their program. The rules are very specific and there are a lot of regulations, so making one individual responsible seems to be the best way to go. The fewer people who need to know all of this information, [the] less misinterpretation [there will be].


In many shops, that individual will often meet with the crew and communicate everything they need to know, but having one source and one decision-maker is ideal. Not everyone has to be an expert, so centralizing that knowledge is important. Align yourselves with consultants or waste companies like us who are ready and willing to assist you every step of the way.


Q: Many shops tout the fact that they're green businesses, advertise it in their marketing efforts and list it on their websites. Do consumers really care about taking their cars to a green shop, or do they just want them taken care of properly?


A: In some parts of the country, especially in California, there is definitely a movement where more and more consumers will gravitate toward companies that are green. Water quality has become a hotter topic in the news, so I think a body shop with a green seal or a green approach is going to get value out of it.


From my experience, it's not just the younger generation that cares about the environment. Everyone now is paying attention to it and those stewards of the planet are getting the benefits of that. Also, shop owners are paying more attention to fines, penalties and enforcement when they run into compliance issues. With instant news and all of the social media out there, if a shop gets caught for violating regulations, people know about it literally right away and can be shared easily.


Q: Is it wise to develop a handbook that new hires can refer to and use as a road map, so to speak?


A: Yes, it should always be a part of new employee orientation and/or training. Everyone in your shop needs to know what is or isn't regular trash and be as environmentally aware of everything involved. Some shops are re-using waterborne-based cleaning products for cleaning their lines, etc., and there is a ton of solvent recycling going on. If your people are kept away from regulatory inspections that may lead to citations and fines by being properly trained, that's obviously invaluable.