Disposing of hazardous waste is one of the biggest challenges a fleet manager faces today. Yet, in many ways, governmental fleet managers are setting an example the private sector can emulate.
Eliminating Wasteful Ways
San Diego County’s approach is to "not generate waste in the first place," said John Clements, manager of fleet operations for more than 4,000 vehicles in the County. Clements and his staff have established programs focused on efficiently using recycled products when possible.
The city of Portland, Ore., has taken waste disposal another step further by simply reducing the hazardous materials its fleet management group purchases.
"We’ve done that by switching to a parts cleaner, for example, that uses nonhazardous materials," said Jeff Scholz, training and safety coordinator. "As long as we don’t get a cleaner full of benzene or chrome, it washes off as a waste, but not a hazardous waste. In many ways, we’ve been able to adhere to a more green philosophy just by making smarter, more informed decisions."
Recycling is the Way to Go
San Diego County operates eight maintenance locations throughout the county, and all county fleet facilities have been converted to water-based cleaners. Vehicles use re-refined oil as part of a closed-loop process. A vendor collects old oil and replaces it with newly refined oil when possible. Not all oils offer such an option.
"The intent with this strategy, and with all of our fleet strategies, is to be as green and eco-friendly as possible," Clements said.
San Diego County also recycles antifreeze. Plant maintenance professionals return used antifreeze to the vendor, providing the County with recycled product.
Recapped tires are used on all heavy-duty, county-owned trucks. Old tire casings are recycled. State law in California also dictates recycling oil filters, a process San Diego followed before the state law was enacted.
All County facilities have shied away from solvent-based cleaning in recent years. The facilities have high-pressure washers and steam cleaners, but the waste water is filtered before entering storm drains.
Such environmentally friendly hazardous waste strategies are possible in San Diego largely because the County’s parts department is privatized with NAPA. The parts company insists that recycled battery and part cores are used, Clements said. Through NAPA, San Diego County also recycles all scrap metal.
In all, San Diego County calls on eight vendors to help recycle parts, lubricants, and other components. Yet the process requires little extra staff effort, Clements said.
"We just need to set up the initial contract with the purchasing department defining a specification, but it’s usually a fairly simple process," Clements said. "From there, it becomes second nature and is a best practice initiative. We know things don’t go into the dumpster. We try not to generate it in the first place and try to get in the recycled arena."