Have you looked in your shop's Dumpster lately? If it's like a lot of shops, you'll probably find aerosol cans, mud flaps, truck batteries, rechargeable flashlight and drill batteries, damaged brake chambers and shoes, old manuals, used shop rags, fluorescent bulbs, blown-out tires, even milk gallons full of used oil.

All of these items can be recycled, and might even be classified as hazardous waste, making it illegal to throw them in the trash.

An organized program to manage your shop's waste may appear on the surface to be a major pain, but in the long run it can save you money and headaches.To find out how, we spoke to three companies that are on the forefront of finding ways to help both the environment and their bottom line:

• Waste Management, based in Houston, Texas, is the leading provider of waste management services in North America, including collection, transfer, recycling and disposal services.

The company practices what it preaches, operating one of the nation's largest fleets of heavyduty trucks powered exclusively by natural gas. It is also taking a leadership role in promoting the recycling of materials that would otherwise end up in landfills – and that includes the waste found in its own maintenance shops.

• Smithfield Transportation, the private fleet of Smithfield Foods, Smithfield,Va., is a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay program (which focuses on air pollution), as well as EPA's National Environmental Performance Track, which rewards companies dedicated to environmental improvement.

About two and a half years ago, the company implemented the ISO 14000 program, which set up globally recognized, certified Environmental Management Systems for Smithfield's processing plants and its two maintenance shops. As a result, they say they have cut waste by 50 percent.

• Ryder Transportation has been working closely with the EPA to modify its National Environmental Performance Track. The goal is to make the program work as well for smaller, non-centralized facilities such as fleet shops as it does for large manufacturing operations.

As a participant, Ryder identified three environmental aspects in its operation and set reduction targets at four locations in the Houston area. They looked at energy, solid waste/sludge, and solvents.


1. The environment.The United States produces approximately 500 million tons of garbage each year.This is equivalent to burying more than 90,000 football fields 6 feet deep in compacted garbage, according to Mike Ehrenhaft, manager of technical management for Waste Management. Approximately 40 to 65 percent of all trash is recyclable, and more is preventable through extended use. "The more trash you keep out of the landfill, the more money you keep for your core business. A lot of people think the opposite."

2. Reducing dependence on foreign oil. Obviously, recycling petroleum products such as tires and waste oil contribute to this goal. It takes 21 gallons of oil to make a new tire, but only 8 gallons to make a retread. But it's not just petroleum products. Ehrenhaft notes that 1 ton of recycled aluminum saves 1,663 gallons of oil along with 10 cubic yards of landfill space. Recycling one ton of plastic saves 685 gallons of oil; a ton of recycled newsprint saves 71 gallons.

"In 2005,Waste Management alone recycled over 3.5 million tons of paper, saving 250 million gallons of oil," he says. "We processed approximately 800,000 tons of glass, saving 4 million gallons of oil.We recycled 123,000 tons of plastic bottles, for 85 million gallons of oil."

3. Compliance with environmental regulations. Reducing your hazardous waste output reduces the potential liabilities for such waste. "We entered into [EPA's National Environmental Track] primarily as a liability reduction effort," says Jim Barr, vice president of environment and government relations at Ryder. "To the extent that you're recycling a waste or not generating hazardous waste, you're reducing potential liability."

4. Saving money. "It seems like it's going to be more hassle, but in the end it actually pays for itself," says Ruth Debrito, environmental coordinator of Smithfield's efforts to be more environmentally friendly. For example, she says, "we saved almost $8,000 in natural gas this year by using recycled oil to heat the shops, and we get state tax breaks on some of this."

5. Improving image. Being environmentally pro-active promotes a better image of your company and the trucking industry, among both the general public and customers. "Our customers are increasingly wanting us to detail our environmental program," says Nanci Tellam, director of corporate and environmental for Ryder Transportation.


The first step, says Waste Management's Ehrenhaft, is to identify consumables that could be reused, recycled or somehow made more environmentally friendly. Some of the areas identified by Waste Management, Smithfield and Ryder include:

Aerosol cans – They may contain propellants that are considered hazardous materials.Try using a reusable container that can be pressurized with CO2 or compressed air.

Antifreeze/coolants – Even the biodegradable types are still hazardous materials once they've been used. Consider ways to reuse, recycle, or extend their use. Even something as simple as choosing one of the extended-life antifreeze/coolants on the market today makes a difference.

Lighting – Fluorescent bulbs and other lamps contain mercury that can be kept out of the environment if they are properly recycled. And you can make those bulbs last longer, as well as save on energy costs, by using lighting wisely.

Ryder installed light sensors in common areas to automatically turn lights off when no one was in the room.

"We did a lot of training with our staff around just being aware of reducing light usage when you didn't need it,"Tellam says. "We did some evaluations on overhead lighting and put in more efficient lighting where we could."

Electronics and batteries – "Ewaste," as it's being called, is becoming more and more of an environmental issue, and trucking shops are no exception.

"With the emergence of electronics in the shop, the testers, the hand-held computers, and the batteries associated with that, [proper disposal] is becoming much more of a priority than in years past," says Ryder's Jim Barr.

Electronic equipment is the fastest-growing portion of the municipal solid waste stream. Computers and electronic equipment can release a variety of toxic substances in a landfill, including mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, brominated flame-retardant plastics and lead.

Batteries can be recycled, and in some states, it's the law. Keep recyclable batteries clean and fully charged to make them last longer. You also can recycle cell phones and ink-jet toner cartridges.

Used oil and filters – Burning waste oil in special units that provide heat allows you to not only dispose of your used oil, but also to save on energy costs. Smithfield has found this to be a big cost-saver. "It was good heat, it was clean heat, and we decided to go with that instead of sending the oil out to be recycled," Debrito says.

"People say it's too expensive, but we've found it's very economical," Fisher adds.

Extending oil-drain intervals helps reduce the amount of used oil generated in the first place. With the help of synthetic oils, Smithfield has been able to triple its oil drain intervals. Fisher says most companies shy away from synthetics because of the cost. "Shops I've talked to look at a $2 quart of oil versus an $8 quart of synthetic oil, but in the long run, you recoup that."

And don't forget about recycling used oil filters. "There's a company that takes those compressed metal canisters and uses them in rebar for concrete," says Waste Management's Ehrenhaft.

Tires – Keeping them well maintained and using a good retread program help keep them working in your fleet longer. As you're disposing of them, do analysis to prevent future failures. Recycle properly.

Solvents – Both Smithfield Transportation and Ryder investigated more environmentally friendly solvents for parts washing.

"We had our biggest success in the solvent reduction,"Tellam says. "We looked at different technologies and different types of solvents and cleaning agents that would reduce that waste stream. We found a cleaner where they take the used solvent and it's used in manufacturing processes afterward, so it's not waste."

Cardboard and paper – Do you have paperwork that doesn't need to be kept? Old manuals? Boxes parts came in? Put them in a recycling bin, not the Dumpster.

Core parts – Many parts, such as alternators and brake shoes and linings, can be remanufactured and recycled. "If it's something that can be retrofitted and put back together, we do it," says Smithfield's Debrito."We're really working with our vendors to do that."


In addition to identifying areas to target, one of the first things to do is to put one person in charge of environmental issues, and centralize your efforts. For one thing, this helps with regulatory compliance, eliminating the "it's not my job" syndrome. It also helps you reap financial benefits.

"If you have five or six shops, and they're all negotiating with waste providers independently, you don't get the cost savings" you may be able to by negotiating one contract for all your locations, Tellam says.

Even if you only have one location, make one person responsible for all the information.

"Information's pretty powerful," says Ryder's Barr. "What we found is that once you get control of all the waste and establish these programs, you can really begin to ratchet down the impact, both from an environmental and overall cost standpoint.You can identify areas of improvement, whether it's waste reduction or managing the vendors better. Once you start having the data in hand, you can bid out your waste streams and get better prices."

Get your technicians involved. At Ryder, it was a technician who came up with an idea for capturing solids, sediment and sand from going down the drain. "There wasn't anything commercially available,"Tellam says. "One of our shop guys designed a fine-mesh screen and put it in place, and it worked for us."The screen keeps trash and grit from going into the oil/water separator.

Smithfield had a similar experience. "It was really overwhelming as to the participation," Fisher says. "They are the ones that come up with suggestions, like 'What about the aerosol cans?'These truck shops, these guys know a whole lot more than you think they do about the right thing to do."

Audit your waste service providers. "Make sure they're doing what they say they're doing," says Ryder's Barr, "even if it's Waste Management, down to Joe's Used Oil."

Smithfield, for instance, discovered one of their contractors was not disposing of pump oil properly. A sharp-eyed technician saw the contractor putting the filled oil disposal container into a trash bin.They found a different contractor.

Work with suppliers.When you negotiate with suppliers to buy tires, batteries, shop rags or brake components, talk to them up front about disposal and recycling options. Not only can it save you money, it also can give you a more realistic idea of the total life cycle cost of that product.

Keep abreast of federal and state environmental regulations affecting you. One good way to do this is by attending one or more major compliance training programs per year.Many companies offer such programs, as well as the American Trucking Associations.

"I hear a lot of, 'We're a small shop, we don't handle that much waste,' " Ehrenhaft says. "Even if the shop only generates a small amount of waste, keep in mind there are thousands of shops that generate a small amount.Together, these shops generate a huge amount of waste."


EPA National Environmental Performance Track


(888) 339-PTRK (7875)

EPA WasteWise


(800) EPA-WISE

EPA on Environmental Management Systems


EPA Listing of State Waste Resources:


Filter Manufacturers Council


(800) 99-FILTER

Information on RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act)


(800) 424-9346

Download publication "RCRA In Focus:Vehicle Maintenance" at


American Trucking Associations' Green Truck


Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp.


(678) 419-9990

Waste Management