There are many ways an auto body shop can reduce waste and help protect employees,
the community, and the environment. Here are some specific recommendations
for preventing pollution when dealing with hazardous materials,
process efficiency, worker safety, conservation
and recognition of a job well done. Since some supplies you
get for free from paint manufacturers, you will not save in upfront costs
but can reduce disposal costs.
Purchase materials that are less hazardous:
- Avoid chlorinated solvents.
- Use high-solids paints (more solids and less solvents). This can reduce
volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by up to 75%.
- Use aqueous cleaning solutions rather than mineral spirits for gun and
parts cleaning. Costs and regulatory liabilities can be minimized by switching
to less hazardous products, such as aqueous solutions.
- Consider using waterborne paints. Although this may require some retraining,
it is the wave of the future and a great alternative.
Reduce paint-contaminated wastes:
- Reuse paint mixing cups and use metal mixing sticks (make sure these are
cleaned before the paint dries).
- Consider investing in a weigh scale to accurately measure paint recipes
in the smallest amounts necessary for the job.
- Use paint leftovers for equipment setup and spray pattern testing.
- Keep a log of vehicle owner's name, paint code, and color variant needed
for the repair, and label and store left-over basecoats. Seal the container
tightly and store upside down to prevent any air from entering.
Reduce the amount of VOCs and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and reduce
employee exposure to hazardous chemicals:
- Use enclosed or mechanical parts washing and gun washing systems.
- Use versatile prep and primer products that accomplish two tasks in one
application. For example a self etching primer.
- NEVER hurry--always plan out the job and use proper application technique.
- Use HVLP spray equipment for appropriate painting tasks.
- Keep inventory and waste containers closed.
Control the use of solvents and paint thinners:
- Use water based prep solutions and cleaners.
- Use water-based paints to minimize the need for cleaning solvents.
- Choose a solvent that has a low VOC and HAPs content (review the product's
MSDS) to protect indoor air quality.
- Use a mechanical or enclosed cleaning system to reduce air emissions and
prevent solvent evaporation.
- Utilize used solvent as a pre-wash for tough cleaning jobs.
- Use a solvent recycler or distillation unit to recover used solvent and
save money. This can reduce the volume of waste that is sent out for hazardous
waste disposal. A small amount of sludge is a by-product that may or may not
be considered hazardous waste.
Improve paint transfer efficiency by providing periodic training for operators
and using efficient application equipment:
- Shop saves money by decreasing amount of paint purchased, replacing paint
booth filters less frequently and less frequent cleaning of the paint booth.
- Use high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) spray guns instead of conventional
spray guns. When used correctly, HVLP spray guns can have higher transfer
efficiencies (60-70%) than conventional spray guns (20-30%).
- Training painters reduces VOC and HAP emissions so painters have less contact
with toxic paint components. Reduced emissions in the neighborhood make for
better relations and fewer potential complaints.
Keep track of shop inventory to prevent over-purchasing and prevent products
from exceeding their expiration dates:
- Use up older materials first.
- Buy in bulk if practical for products that don’t have shelf life
expirations, and to reduce multiple packaging and container disposal problems.
- Use cost-effective reusable spray bottles to apply your bulk liquid supplies
like cleaners. See www.epa.gov/region09/cross_pr/p2/autofleet/spray.pdf
- Regularly check for leaks and spills, cleaning them up immediately.
Hint: If air permitting recordkeeping requirements are involved, paint vendors
should be able to help track monthly or yearly purchases of VOC- content materials.
Properly manage wastewater:
- Never dispose of shop wastewater down a storm drain or in a septic system.
- Never dispose of hazardous waste down a storm drain or septic system.
- Contact the local municipal wastewater treatment plant prior to discharging
to the sanitary sewer. Wastewater may need to be tested or pretreated.
- Maintain your trenches, traps, and oil water separators. For more information
To reduce exposure to diisocyanates, workers should take precautions to avoid
breathing vapors, mists, or aerosols:
- Use engineering controls to limit exposure such as downdraft spray booths
and high-volume low-pressure (HVLP) spray guns.
- Wear impermeable gloves, protective clothing, goggles or glasses with side
shields to reduce dermal exposure.
- Establish a training and fit test program for all affected employees and
wear a NIOSH/MSHA-approved respirator to reduce inhalation exposure.
- Use a maintenance program to ensure optimal equipment operating efficiency.
For more information on worker safety, see www.osha.gov/SLTC/autobody/recognition.html.
Reuse and recycle as much material as possible, maintain your facility and
equipment, and encourage employees to conserve water and energy:
- Reuse slightly dirty thinner as a pre-wash.
- Recycle scrap metal, aluminum cans, glass, etc.
- Recycle plastic automobile bumpers. Contact your local recycling center
for more information.
- Recycle automotive fluids such as used oil, antifreeze, and coolants.
- Recycle mercury switches. The P2Rx Mercury
- Automotive topic hub has general information and model specific applications.
- Make sure labeling is present on all inventory and waste containers to
avoid confusion and potential mixing. Label or color code common use containers.
- Use a broom and/or vacuum to clean floors instead of water.
- ALWAYS clean liquid spills of all kinds with a squeegee and a dustpan before
using towels and absorbent products.
- Fix leaking faucets and all other water leaks immediately.
- Install water-conserving faucets and toilets.
- When washing vehicles, turn off hose between rinses. Also use flow restrictors
to get the job done with less water.
- Use less water to clean paint booths by using a broom and vacuum (also
minimizes the amount of wastewater generated.
- Turn off lights when a room is unoccupied for extended periods or install
- Turn off equipment if it is not going to be used for extended periods.
- Keep equipment well maintained.
- Weatherize buildings appropriate for the climate. Install a programmable
If you know of an auto body shop that has taken steps to reduce waste and
protect their workers and the community, give them the "pat on the back" they
deserve by nominating them for a pollution prevention award. Many state and
local government agencies and some universities sponsor pollution prevention
awards programs. Here are some examples of environmental awards programs from
around the United States:
Green Zia Environmental Excellence Program - A voluntary program for
businesses in New Mexico: www.nmenv.state.nm.us/Green_Zia_website
EnviroStars - Nationally recognized program honors businesses in participating
Washington counties for reducing, recycling and properly managing hazardous
Green Star - A voluntary environmental awards program that was started
in Alaska but has expanded throughout the United States: www.
Three Rivers Environmental Awards Program - A program created to honor
the outstanding achievements of organizations, businesses, and inpiduals in
a wide range of environmental efforts: www.threeriversawards.org
U.S. Army Environmental Awards Program - An awards program designed
to recognize and reward environmental excellence in the U.S. Army: aec.army.mil/usaec/publicaffairs/awards00.html