Did you know that as engine builders, we were green long before green became the IN thing? We were green even before Kermit said it wasn’t easy. How are we green, you ask? We are green because we rebuild, which means we recycle.
Green is defined as:
• Relating to or being an environmentalist political movement;
• Concerned with or supporting environmentalism; and
• Tending to preserve environmental quality (as by being recyclable, biodegradable, or nonpolluting) – Merriam Webster Dictionary.
A couple of synonyms for green as a verb are rejuvenate and revitalize.
Isn’t this exactly what the automotive aftermarket is all about? Rebuilding, rejuvenating and revitalizing a component or complete assembly. The automotive aftermarket has been doing this since I was just a little sales manager.
We rebuild everything from water pumps to starters to alternators to brake calipers to transmissions and, of course, complete engines and all of the components that go into the engine. We regrind valves and valve seats, we regrind valve guides, we regrind camshafts, crankshafts, connecting rods and the list goes on and on. We basically reuse just about every component that moves inside a gas or diesel internal combustion
Being green in rebuilding the engine’s components is one thing we are very good at but what about the shop in general? How green is your shop? Do you recycle your metal chips? Do you recycle the aluminum engine components that can’t or won’t be rebuilt? What about the can from the pop you drank today? So what can and can’t be recycled? Here’s a partial list of what can be recycled in my area:
• Phone books
• Office paper
• Used motor oil
You will, of course, need to check with your local recycling center to get a list for your area.
I suggest you create a “Green Czar” in your shop to be responsible for identifying what can and cannot be recycled. This person will also be responsible for ensuring that everything that can be recycled is, in fact, recycled. The key here is being consistent. Separate these items daily, then round them up monthly for delivery to your local recycling facility.
By taking time to separate recyclables your shop will be more organized, cleaner, and done properly you have created a nice little income to spoil your hard working employees with. You can use these proceeds to help fund a monthly pizza party or other function that all of your hard working people can be a part of and therefore get on board to recycling. In some cities the recycle facility will send a truck to your shop and pick up all of your recyclables at one time.
Metal and Metal Chips: These come in various forms and you get a new supply each and every day. Steel, iron and aluminum are obviuosly most common; plus we get to throw in some copper, bronze, tin and a little brass now and then. This is probably your biggest source of recyclables, so pick up all of these metals and organize a place somewhere in or outside your shop to collect and store them.
Be sure this area is secure to prevent theft, if you store your metal recyclables outside. We get fresh cast iron chips from our boring bar. We get fresh cast iron and aluminum chips from our mill or surfacer and we get cast iron and aluminum from our seat and guide machine.
You will need to take the time to remove the steel wrist pins from the pistons. Keep in mind that piston rings can also be recycled and there may be other components that may need to be disassembled to separate one type of metal from another. Also check with the local recycler to ensure you are complying with these specific requirements for recycling.
Plastics: We get these free almost every day in the form of water bottles, plastic oil bottles, coolant jugs, plastic pop bottles, plastic packaging material and yes, engine components, plastic timing chain guides and plastic timing gears. Always check with the local recycling facility to make sure they take all the various forms of plastic we see in the machine shop. Some of these will need to be cleaned prior to them going on the recycle pile.
Paper and Cardboard: Here is another almost endless supply of clutter that can be recycled. Most all engine parts and shop supplies arrive in cardboard boxes. They may also include newspaper as packing, and when you combine the office paper, envelopes, old phone books, magazines, and junk mail you get a pretty good pile.
Some packing material cannot be recycled and one of them is those pesky weebos, as I call them, but most refer to them as packing peanuts. Remove these Styrofoam thingies before you recycle the cardboard as most recycling facilities do not accept them. There is a new generation of packing peanuts made from cornstarch that will decompose in water. Encourage your suppliers to use these instead of the petroleum-based packing peanuts most of us are accustomed to seeing.
Engine oils from your tear down department are great for recycling. Some of you may already be using it to heat the shop in winter. Antifreeze however is one of those substances that need special handling for recycling. Check with your city or county hazardous waste departments for guidelines.
Coolants and Oils: Your best bet here is to get the maximum life out of your coolants and oils. So let’s discuss those opportunities you already have in your shop to not only be a little greener but to also save some money. Let’s start at the hone tank. Here we can use filter paper under the workspace to catch the big chunks of metal created when honing.
I like to also suggest you put some magnetic strips or actual magnets in the coolant trough to catch additional metal particles prior to them going into the pump and into the finer filters you have on the back of the machine. By separating these particles from the honing oil you have just extended the life of your honing oil by about 25 percent, saving you money by not having to replace the honing oil as often.
The valve refacer can also benefit by adding magnets to the oil return troughs. You can extend the life of your crank grinder coolant as well as the surface grinder coolant by incorporating a sludge filter bag at the end of the return hose prior to it going back into the sump. This sludge bag will remove the larger chunks of grinding grit and if you include magnets in the coolant troughs you will remove the metal particles as well. By including the sludge bags and magnets your coolant will last longer your floor to floor grinding speeds will stay the same and your finished work piece will also be consistent.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like selling you guys oils and coolants each and every day, but I also know we need to get the most life as possible for these expensive oils and coolants.
So, like I said at the beginning, you are already Green, now it’s time to take it the next level to save money and the environment. Be sure to check out the special “Green Strategies”?section in this issue of Engine Builder for even more ideas!
See ya in the shop!
Dave (aka Dr. Green)